Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The End Has No End, or When It Doesn’t Come Easy

So this was where I was last week:

Le sigh.

I hate not knowing the ending to a story I’m actively working on! It’s like jumping from a plane without a parachute. Alas and alack, I’m freefalling right this very minute!

I’m in the midst of writing for a web comic my friend and I will be launching. There will be three series on the coming website: a set of more experimental or artistic comic stories; an action-oriented, supernatural venture; and a fun, fun good times end of the world romp.

The action-oriented series is my problem child. I’ve sketched out half the chapters, but the ending is still being either stubborn or shy and won’t come out of hiding. All I’m working with are vague shadows of what I’m maybe kinda of possibly halfway sure the ending should probably look something like. Arg! I can’t work under these conditions. If I could wring this story by its scrawny neck, I would have choked the hell out of it by now!

I’ve heard rumors and murmurings that there are writers out there who never know their ending until they get there. Purportedly, they “write to find out” how their story is going to end. That, my friends, sounds like a vital ingredient of insanity soup. It has to be! Because I am going crazy here!

And my brain hurts a little.

What is especially frustrating is that things have been going much more smoothly for the fun, fun good times end of the world romp. Ridiculously smooth…

Inspiration* (In Three Easy Steps!):

· Day One: Think of interesting phrase, realize interesting phrase would make as even more interesting title, come up with main character within minutes.

· Week One: Come up with supporting characters. Start settling on names. Steal time while at work to jot down the dialogue that keeps popping into your head. REALIZE THE ENDING TO EVERYTHING!! OMG!! IT’S PERFECT! IT’S BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE IT! OMG! I FEEL SO SAD FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW YET HOW AWESOME THE ENDING IS GOING TO BE AND HAVE TO WAIT MONTHS TO FIND OUT!!!!

· Onward: Everything flows naturally and easily from there. The characters never stop talking to each other in your head and every time you sit down to your computer liquid gold springs forth from your fingertips.

See! That’s how it’s supposed to go! Like Jay-Z laying down a track! (I hear he does it all in one go.)

Usually if a story isn’t agreeing with me, I’d switch over from Project A to Project B. Until I hit a wall on Project B. At which point I return to Project A with a fresh pair of eyes. But when I have a deadline (even if it is self-imposed) and am accountable to a creative partner, jumping ship just won’t do.

Where I’ve landed this week:

I’ve been forced to remember that even when the ideas aren’t flowing trippingly from the brain, stories still manage to get themselves written. They still want to be born into the world.

Ew. I just sounded all touchy-feely new age-y in that last paragraph. So let me say it this way instead: Just because the ideas aren’t leaping from the cliffs of your imagination and onto your paper like a herd of lemmings, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. What it means is you might have to reach up there and coax them down (or knock them loose with a broomstick. Whatevs). It’s important not to get trapped into one way of doing things. We can use what works while it’s working, but when the modus operandi stops operandi-ing, then what? We wait patiently for the muses to be so kind as to reappear?

Sure, if you have the luxury. But if not, it might be worth your time to know how to break on through to the other side of that stone wall you’ve hit. For me that means talking it out. This works best when I force– I mean, ask someone to be my sounding board. A family member, a friend, an innocent, bystanding co-worker who was unfortunate– I mean, privileged to take their lunch break at the same time as me.

This person doesn’t have to be another writer. Despite my threats, I’m not really demanding that they come up with the solution to my story troubles, though their questions are welcomed and helpful. The act of trying to explain what I want to happen in a story helps me untangle jumbled elements, calls attention to holes that need filling so’s I stop falling into them, or just forces me to actively think about what I’m doing for a concentrated chunk of time.

I’m excited to report that after cornering a co-worker in the break room and trapping my sister on the phone, I’ve realized my ending and the middle parts are now falling into place.

I guess I can’t be too mad at my ending for being all coy and elusive. It’s good and necessary to be reminded that sometimes the “being inspired” part of writing is hard work. It can’t all come from that magical land of “it just came to me.”

(sniff. sniff.) The video I wanted to share with you isn't working because it's mean and it hates me, but if you want to see an educational and relevant piece about where jokes come from click the pic or here. Or even here if you want to be different.

*Material derived from process subject to rewrites and revisions.


  1. Great post. Glad to hear you found your ending.

    When I started my WIP all I knew about the ending was 'MC defeats the villain! Jubilation!' Right up until I wrote it I still only had a few hazy ideas floating round in my brain, but in the end it ended up kind of all right. PHEW.

  2. You had me from "Le Sigh."
    You're on the right track, for sure! Keep it up.

  3. Thanks, ladies!

    It does seem to eventually work out one way or the other, doesn't it, Girl Friday?

  4. I usually just forcefully end my manuscript when I feel it needs it and then go back and edit the ending over and over until it has a natural conclusion feel to it.

  5. Thank God for editing and re-writing, eh?. It gives us the freedom to do a sucky first pass just to get something out since we know we can always fix it (and fix it and fix it) later.