Thursday, 27 May 2010

Wrapping them up.

I posted a short story to a competition the other day. It was a last minute decision as the closing date was rapidly approaching. The story, a fable, had sat gathering dust for quite some time. It had promise, I thought, but the ending just didn’t gel. There was something missing, a rounding off to make it feel finished and satisfying.

The change around in my attitude came last weekend when I went to a workshop on editing. It looked at works as a whole and discussed ways in which a writer could assess whether a story was as good as it could be. One of the aspects discussed was endings. There were all sorts ways an ending could be made more satisfying, such as leaving it at just the right point to leave the reader wondering what happened next, or leaving them with a question.

The suggestion that helped me with this particular story however, was the idea of finishing the story with something that links back to the beginning – a phrase or idea that repeats and reminds the reader where it started. There was a special name for it, but being me, I forgot to write it down. I was too busy getting excited about my story. Suddenly, I knew how to end it, to close the lid and tie a ribbon around it. I love those “Ah –ha” moments. Once I’d done that, I felt much happier about sending it out.

Now I’m trying to forget about it and get on with more writing. That's the hardest part of writing. Sending your children out and pretending you're not thinking about them.


Joanne Fox said...

I wish finishing stories was as easy as starting them. As a reader I tend to prefer definite endings, rather than being left to wonder what happened next. Those ones that end up with a reminder of where they began are good too. I think of those as circular stories, but I don't know if that's their proper name.

Good luck in the comp. x

Rena said...

Great post!

Clare said...

That circular technique is common to article writing as well - finishing with a reminder of where you started.
Co-incidentally, I was reading about short story endings earlier. I like reading stories with definite endings, albeit not necessarily happy with every loose end tied. I tend therefore to end my own stories like that whereas the author seemed to be suggesting that readers don't like reading stories like that but want to be left wondering. Just as well readers and writers vary in their likes and techniques!
Good luck with your competiton entry, Kate!

Goldie said...

Good on you Kate! I hope you're successful. Endings are hard for me. It was good to read about going back to the beginning. I'll remember that. Good luck!

Kate said...

Joanne, I prefer definite endings too. The name the speaker gave us was more complicated than 'circular'. It was something Aristotle advocated, but what was it?

Thanks, Rena.

Clare, yes, it is a good job we're all different. I don't necessarily want a happy ending, but it has to have closure of some sort.

Goldie, Good to 'see' you again. Thanks for your good wishes.