Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ending Things

I love to read.  However, one of my biggest pet peeves is picking up a book that doesn't know when to end.  This usually comes from those hefty tomes that populate high school libraries but which few people actually enjoy.  However, there are plenty of novels in the public sphere that get engaged in the story, and that story then becomes like the kudzu that is taking over the South.

One of the reasons I hate TV Shows like Lost or Twin Peaks is that they never got around to resolving things.  They continued to tease and make it appear as if they'd finally reach resolution, but they just kept going and going and going.  Even the best things in life can be overdone.
(How much sushi do you really need?)
Writers can easily fall into a trap regarding our stories if we don't prune our work.  A novel becomes exciting to write when the story takes on a life of its own.  We want to delve into the most subtle of plot points and the minor nuances of our characters.  However, we have to keep in mind that readers want stories to have a satisfying ending.  Unlike the real world, books are where we can go to get the kind of closure we wish we could in life.

I've run into this issue in my current work, and I've had to scale back some of what I want to say.  The complexities of a new American Civil War are too endless to hit every possible plot point and still end it before the book reaches gargantuan proportions.  Some of the characters are a little shallow, mostly because if I was to devote the space necessary to bring all of them into full fruition, I'd have a book over 200,000 words.  As much talent as I like to think I have, I realize that no one would read anything that large.

Sometimes, this requires forcing an ending.  I'm a realist, so I see the ways a story can spin off into infinity.  But that leads down rabbit holes sometimes, so I put an artificial stopper in the hole just so readers can hit the bottom of the hole.  This usually means inserting some plot point into the script that will lead to the story being resolved, even if it has to be finessed in order to stay in the spirit of the book.

Speaking of endings, even blog posts can go on too long.  Therefore, I'll just let this stuff sink in and leave you with this - make sure you end your stories.  No one likes what can go on forever.  That just means the reader will end it, often by no longer reading the author.

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