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Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Finish

Finish strong.

You need a good beginning. Reader's will forgive a sluggish middle, but they'll likely put down a book with a weak beginning. A tepid ending and they'll forget the story, or put it down and think, Meh. 

But a strong ending? You've got a fan. 

For me, the ending is the most important part of the story. I've forgiven entire stories when the ending is good. For me, good is shocking. Good is I didn't see that coming. Good is the ending that sticks with me for days. As a reader, I want a story that I don't see what's coming next, a story with an ending I can't predict. 

Stephen King isn't a strong ender. Probably because he's a pantser, his plots unfold as he writes. He's one of the most prolific and visceral writers alive, always good for a chuckle and a cringe. But more often than not, his endings fizzle instead of pop. (Dr. Sleep was an exception.)

Frequently, I have the ending figured out before I begin writing. The challenge is how to get to it in a plausible, entertaining fashion. How do you put the reader on the edge of her seat, a veritable thrill ride that deposits her in a swoosh of white water excitement? Yeah, that's the challenge. 

If I can find an ending that turns the story upside-down (ala Sixth Sense), then I've hit a home run. The conclusion of The Socket Green Saga did that. Foreverland is Dead, too. Halfskin, I was happy with. 

More often than not, I want a satisfying conclusion. I don't like cliffhangers, the type of ending that doesn't resolve the plot. You can write a series without that dissatisfaction. Rowlings did it quite well, and we were clamoring for the next book.

Current work in progress, I have the ending. The character need to get into the basement. That's where the big reveal is going to happen. It will explain the tension going on within the family, will resolve some of the questions existing in the story arc (as well as other questions in subsequent novels since this is a prequel).

So I've got to get him into the basement. It's got to be logical, feasible. Believable.

I know the story arc, know how I want it to start, some of the highlights, but it's got to end up in the basement. With that in mind, I can set up foreshadowing, seed reasons for him getting into the basement. His parents are always down there and it's always locked. Do they just forget to lock it one day? No, that's not feasible. Does he pick the lock? Break through the door? Does he have a reason besides curiosity to get into the basement?


The story can contain tension between Harold, a twelve-year-old boy that is something of an outcast at school, and other students. I'm thinking there can be a scene where the antagonists want payback for something (Harold shoots one in the eye with a pellet gun) and chase him all the way inside the house. Harold panics and runs to the basement to hide. I'm not how he gets down there, but I'll figure that out later.

Yeah. There's something there I like.

It's not totally fleshed out. In fact, when I get to that scene, it's likely to have transformed into something resembling it. Or not at all. But I have something I like, I can feel it. That subtle instinct is connecting with it and I'm ready to start writing toward it.

I like it. And when I'm done, if I still like it, I can only hope readers will like it.

And there's no guarantee that'll happen.

To be continued...

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