As a Writer, Know When it is Over

Stephen Crane, Author, Red Badge of Courage
Image by Tony the Misfit (Getting Back) via Flickr
The story, that is. Recently I finished a sweet little Regionalism novel about two sisters growing up in 1950’s Milwaukee. It started out well with clever anecdotes and interesting characters, but when I got to the end of the book (or what I thought should be the end) the author rattled on for another two whole chapters. Quite frankly, it ruined the story for me.
As writers we are told that our stories need to have a specific beginning, middle, and end but no one seems to know just where the end should go. Is it where the writer thinks it should be or where the reader needs it to happen? A more important inquiry might be whether or not we as writers can distance ourselves enough from our writing to see where the natural ending should come.
A great novel will end right where we as the reader think it should. Or at least we will be able to understand, given the rest of the story, why an author chose to end it where he or she did. A mediocre novel will end about two or three chapters beyond that point with no rhyme or reason.
And it isn’t just books that fall victim to this conundrum. Many of us have watched movies that seem to go on way past the logical stopping point. Maybe it is best to follow the old advice given to writers and artists: “Arrive late and leave early.”

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About M. Jaynes

A female educator with anger-management issues, M. Jaynes is causing change in the world by inspiring (some may say forcing) young minds to think for themselves and question everything.

Comments

  1. Eric Bahle says:

    Or perhaps ‘always leave ’em wanting more’. I have a much harder time with ending a story than beginning one.