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Inspirational Reads

Beginnings and Endings

May 2, 2008

I need a notebook.

Well, I already have a notebook. At work, I have two, one for each facet of the project I'm working on. I also have a notebook with the entire prologue to The Boar War written out in pencil that I scratched out while visiting my sister-in-law and her husband (which would be my brother-in-law, but being as how they're from Atlanta, I didn't want any incestuous overtones to maybe leak through by accident). I have one filled with a hundred different nuggets and notes and characters relationships for Thistles et. al. The problem is, I didn't have it the other day when I really needed it.

I have a fairly long commute in the mornings, which is broken into two legs. The first, I take my daughter to her school, which is about a 40 minute drive. The second leg, which occurs after a ten minute sit in line at her school, is about 30 - 40 minutes to work. It wouldn't be nearly as long, but no matter which way I go, I'm stuck sitting in standing-still traffic for what probably equates to 10 to fifteen minutes. That's one of the joys of living in a community/urban area that has expanded faster than the civic engineers could cook up new ways of fucking up the traffic patterns which roads needed to be expanded to accommodate all of the cars trying to get into the handful of places where businesses are in this area.

As you can probably guess, I think a lot on these long commutes. Yes, I should be paying utmost attention to the road, but my mind tends to wander. Sometimes I think about what I ate for breakfast, sometimes I think about what reactions I need to do at work, sometimes I think about coffee, sometimes I think about what a fucked up mess Kelvin Sampson left the Hoosiers. A lot of time, though, I think about my books and the stories I still have left to tell (which, as you might guess, since I run a blog...I like telling stories).

Sometimes, these stories seem like and endless loop. In theory, that's how I like to think of them, anyway. I mean, something happens to the characters in their world after the words "The End" have been typed on the page (more on this in a moment). However, if something happens after the story ends, that necessitates that something had to happen before the story's beginning. In my stories, time is just as endless as it is in our world. I was pondering the beginning of King of Shadows, and I remember one of my friends once saying, "Well, it took a little bit to get going, but once it did, everything was very good."

I didn't like this. For one, the first chapter is long, and it does take a while to get through the whole opening scene where the main character is riding home from a war. As I was pondering, I came up with a new way of delivering the opening scenes, but delivered through a dialogue-heavy series as opposed to the long paragraphs and passages that currently open the book. As I cooked it up, I knew it would need some polish, but I was excited.

Then I went to work, and promptly forgot most of what I wanted to write.


I went back the other night and re-read the ending of The Boar War (in case anyone's forgotten the score, The Boar War is the manuscript currently being reviewed by my potential agent), based largely on my wife's reaction and her favorable comparison to the finale of the Harry Potter series. I hate to brag, but, she's right. It is a good ending. I really like it. One of my main influences in my writing style is Tad Williams. One thing that Tad does really well is weaving together several storylines into one great finale. Not that I'm anywhere near the same class as Tad, but I think I was able to bring together the three main plotlines and tie them up nicely. Even the denouement chapter worked out rather well.

I, personally, hate happily ever after. This is another thing that I credit to Tad. I read in an interview of his once, and he described how life doesn't end for his characters at the end of his books. Not everything that happens is going to be good for them. I took this to heart, and so whenever I go about writing an ending to my stories, I always leave a little bit of antagonism hanging in the air. For instance, I'll kill a hero or leave a villain alive, or I'll leave a place destroyed so that there's going to be a lot of work to be done rebuilding it. I want my readers to use their imaginations to figure out what happens next. Basically, in this age of blogs and message boards, I realize that people are going to discuss what happens after the story ends. So, I like to leave a few things open for discussion.

One things about endings, though, is that they're always bittersweet. It's a great feeling to finish a story, but at the same time, the story is over. Sometimes, it's difficult to determine exactly how to finish off an ending. Unfortunately, in the world of writing books, you can't just cop out and pop up a picture of Leelee Sobieski.


The Ex said...

I love happy endings but...I also like characters and plotlines that I can connect with beyond the book. There are some series that once finished I've continued wondering how the characters are, what they're doing. They become real when you know that they go on after the book ends.

But yeah. Leelee.

Frank said...

I always like a nice twist at the end, something completely unexpected. Like, you THINK the main character is going to be all fine and dandy, and then gets killed right at the last second, etc. That's the way I'd do things if I were any good at writing fiction.

Chemgeek said...

I kind of forgot what you were talking about when I got to the ending.

Rider said...

I listen to podcasts on my 40-minute commute. When I'm cooking up the plot for a story, I tend to do it while driving also. I get way into it, talking out loud. Sometimes I'll dictate a cool idea into my phone so I won't forget it.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

So LeeLee isn't in the end of the Boar War?
Crap! OK, I am still going to read it, but a gratuitous LeeLee would have been a nice touch.

mevans said...

I never knew what that chick's name was. NEVER. It was like one of those "the most famous person whose name you don't know" kind of deals. Thanks for the enlightenment!