The pause before the end

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. 

The End.
Not to be taken lightly.
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5 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing the ending

5 responses to “The pause before the end

  1. If you feel the ending you have planned isn't the right one I would suggest rereading the opening two or three chapter some way without you even realising. Something someone says, an object, a place… the answer is usually in there somewhere.moodMoody Writing@mooderino

  2. I love your blog-voice, Carol. Very readable. I agree – I've found endings difficult to 'approach', as if the process of transferring to paper will somehow change what has been lurking inside for so long. I suppose it's also about losing the hold I have as a writer on my characters and their lives. As writers, I imagine we need to be able to 'let go' – to share. Not always an easy thing to do. Thanks for the read. 😉

  3. I think it was reading several blogs about endings (maybe mooderino's) that made me realize the ending I'd planned was incomplete. Oddly enough, the process of writing this piece helped me over the bump (Confession: I wrote it a few weeks ago and neglected to post.) I think I found the extra bit I needed for the end. Hopefully my readers will let me know if it's lacking.As for Eamon's interesting thought–"as if the process of transferring to paper will somehow change what has been lurking inside for so long" — my fear is that what's been lurking isn't good enough. Can't know till we get it out!

  4. I knew when I finished my first draft that it wasn't the end I would ultimately settle on, but I had the protag in a place I liked and there were a few potential scenarios floating around in my head, but they hadn't congealed yet into one statement I liked. But, hey, I wouldn't worry; it only took me three years to come up with the ending I have now from the time I wrote the first one. It's right around the corner. ;)Cool blog.Fred

  5. The neat thing about writing fiction is the unexpected emergence of an idea!Fred, thanks for your thoughts.

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