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How Do I End It?

March 16th, 2010

So many writers have the same problem… No, not THAT problem, but sitting in a desk chair for long periods of time CAN cut-off blood flow to extremities. It’s a proven fact…

Actually, the problem most writers have, at one point or another in their work, is how to end their tales. Writers, like normal humans, crave companionship; unfortunately, most writers lead such solitary existences that they make up companions, who they call ‘characters.’ And if you’ve populated your ‘world’ with ‘characters,’ it’s difficult to kill them off or otherwise end their existences. Or, God forbid, end their entire world by bringing your story to an end.

But endings happen. They are necessary aspects of… well, everything. Endings are beginnings – which lead to endings… and so on. But that understanding doesn’t make it any easier for some poor wretch ‘with a pencil’ who wants to end the suffering (or jubilation – who knows?) of his (or her) ‘characters.’

But I have a solution for that. It’s a method I’ve used with many writers in the past – and which works a surprising amount of the time. If a writer comes to me and says they’ve ‘written themselves into a corner’ or simply can’t draw a tale to a close, I ask them to tell me the tale backwards. It’s a facile trick, to be sure, but it un-grounds the story in temporal order and forces the writer to see the work as a non-linear construct. Every once in a while a writer can’t ‘begin’ this retro-telling of the story, and that usually signals one thing: the story really doesn’t hold together.

Remember the simplest axiom of writing: every story has a beginning, a middle and an ending, and the ending’s usually the hardest part (to get right).

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