A Good Ending

Most stories change once a writer finds the end. How could it not? The end is a story’s destination, the emotional and spiritual target toward which all action is aimed. Often, once a writer finds the story’s true ending, she must go back and remove those bits not affiliated with the conclusion, or fill those gaps the in story’s narrative architecture. A story must stand firmly, and move surprisingly but inevitably forward. Yet the ending is also the story’s meaning, the reason it was told in the first place. In every story the hero or heroine will suffer. In every story a character we hopefully love will be chased by killers, or watch a loved one die, or go hungry, or be thrown in prison. Without suffering, there is no story. The story’s ending is the reason for that suffering.

Did the hero suffer to exact vengeance? Did the heroine suffer so that she might at last be crowned queen and have her subjects bow down to her as they rightly should? Or did the hero suffer to learn compassion? Did the heroine seek love so that she might love herself? The answer should inform all your narrative choices throughout your story.

All of which reminds me of the stories we tell about death. The more I read, and the more I write, and the more I talk to writers who have written about death – either their own near death or the death of a loved one – the more I have come to understand that the story we tell about death becomes the story we tell about life. How can it not? Death is this story’s inevitable conclusion.

I used to fear death for precisely this reason. It wasn’t the actual dying I feared, but death’s message. All my life would be lived toward this one moment where the meaning or meaninglessness of everything I had done would be revealed. Now I would learn if I have lived correctly or incorrectly. This was a terrible and incurable uncertainty. What choice had I but to select my own story about death and live toward it, and how glad I was to find that the message I believed awaited me at my end was delivered the moment I chose it.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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