A3Writer: Endings
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Endings

     Endings are hard. Wait, that doesn't accurately capture the entire sentiment, and I'll borrow from Douglass Adams for this one. It may be difficult to start writing, or work through weeks-long writer's block, or to lift a mountain with bare hands, but that's just peanuts to endings. A good ending, whether it's for a book, short story, television series, or movie, is monumentally difficult. On more than one occasion I have read through a series of books, and enjoyed them, only to vow vengeance on the author for the let down that was the ending. Similarly, there are many TV series that seem to do well in the beginning, but very few can carry that momentum to a satisfactory end.
     I think, in part, that it is an emotional time. Particularly in a series---books or television---where all the characters had come together for common purpose and separate, endings are difficult. There is a sense of wanting things to continue on, that even though everything that had to be done had been accomplished, the characters should continue on. However, it is the nature of truly great works that the characters change and grow. Static characters, one of the many difficulties with comic books with the various writers and editors who want to turn things back to "the good old days", ultimately are uninteresting. Endings, properly done, understand that the characters have changed and things cannot go back to the way they were at the beginning. They have grown, and must move forward.
     I suppose I can understand that when it comes to endings, the writers have their work cut out for them, and simply cannot manage to adequately capture the ending, for a variety of reasons. For the media, I'm sure that time and money are constraints. For novelists, I well know the temptation to rush and get a manuscript away from my hands after so much struggle on it. Still, I think that an ending is perhaps the most important part of the novel---not that there is an unimportant part. For the individual novel as part of a continuing series, the ending can lay a foundation for the next work. As the finale in a series, the ending needs to give closure. Now, closure is not to be confused with wrapping up all the loose ends. I'm a big believer in the idea that there are always new beginnings, and that things continue on beyond the end of the novels. Readers need emotional closure with the characters, to know that main issues are resolved in a satisfactory way. Most importantly, I believe this takes time. Perhaps I am in the minority, but I believe that the end of Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings is masterful at this. Almost half of the third volume is devoted to the ending, giving each character a measure of the ending to fully resolve the attachments. It's also not quick. A good deal of time transpires within the work to repair damages done, and bring the characters to a point where they can adequately end the work. Even with all this time and movement on the part of the characters, I end up feeling the same as Samwise at the end of the books, heart heavy, but with the sure knowledge that the end had to occur.
     I suppose that I'm a bit of a sap for this sort of closure, and most people don't become as invested to appreciate an ending that long. While the books I'm currently working on don't have the same epic scale as Tolkien, I believe that it is only fitting to spend more time to end the work than slapping a THE END after the story's reveal and immediate resolution. I have one friend who seems to favor brief endings, but I find that something with a little more weight gives me a sense of closure, and I do insert seeds of things to come for the next novel.
     There will always be opinions on this subject, but I stand firm in my belief that an ending with a little more oomph behind it is better than exercises in brevity, if nothing else than to resolve a few unanswered questions and bring about some kind of emotional closure. I certainly hope that if I come to the point where I bring a final close to my intrepid detective, that I will spend more time on resolving all of the characters than a few short pages.



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