Here’s the current problem. Come to think of it, it’s my typical old problem. I’m near the end of a first draft, and reluctant to write the finish. Instead of plowing ahead, I decided to explore why, maybe do a better job when I get back to it.
It’s not burnout. I know what that feels like. This pause feels more like fear that I’ve missed something. It feels like staying up late because the day was boring, like checking the house before going on vacation.
The story may not be ready to end.
Even if it is, there’s good reason to pause. Readers expect something satisfactory to emerge from the situation, conflict, or chaos, so there’s a responsibility to deliver it. Just not as usual, and not as might be expected.
A good ending comes as something of a surprise to the characters as well as to the readers, yet it illuminates the beginning and middle of the story. Seeds of the ending are present in the very first page. If a WINNER emerges in a BIG SCENE, the ending helps us understand what winning means.
Occasionally I read an ending so perfect that I am reluctant to close the book. I hold it a short while, admiring and getting used to the fact that it’s over. Darn.
The movie “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” ends with a great symbol: the Denzel Washington character bringing home milk, as instructed by his wife earlier in the day. The ending works because it’s so ordinary, a contrast with his extraordinary action throughout the story. It says, “Life has been restored.”
In a satisfactory ending, someone we care about goes on.
Not to be taken lightly.