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Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Endings torment me.
There's not much we can do about reality, but for the record, I do not approve of real people dying mid-life leaving their story arc dangling unfinished. Nor do I approve preventable deaths that infuse grief with outrage. Or that mix grief with regret for the undone. Or worse, those that mix sorrow with guilt and shame over the un-doable. A clean sad is almost okay, but that's it, death-wise. 
To a lesser degree, I hate when relationships end with no tidy narration or honest reviewing of facts... When expectations fizzle, and events fall short of their promise... when love just wanders off... And yet, movie endings almost always enrage me for doing exactly what I hate real life for not doing: ending neatly.
Film/shmilm, I don't expect truth in movies. Much more important and infuriating to me is when the end of a NOVEL feel tacked on, unearned, bull-shitty, false. A stupid ending destroys the book backwards, as if the story is being sucked back in through its asshole to puke itself inside out.
But obviously, the book endings that torment me most often are the ones I need to write.
I have had more angry letters from readers for allowing evil to prevail in Poison Ivy than I’ve even had for using poopy language in Side Effects! (that's a lot) People want a happy ending. We want to believe in justice. 
Me too, I wanna! But we can't MAKE ourselves believe things just because we want to. And we can’t write what we don’t feel to be true.  
Isn't it dishonest to misrepresent human nature as we understand it? Isn't it a lie to tell our readers that everything happens for a reason, if we don't really think life works that way?  Or that bad people get their comeuppance? Or learn from their mistakes? Or even recognize mistakes as mistakes? Or that life is fair? Or that anyone profoundly changes? 
Writers who believe that, can write it, I suppose.
But I have not yet, in my 58 years of life seen anyone change in any deep way. Not really. I look at my two kids, both essentially the people they were from their first breaths. My life-long friends... fundamentally unchanged by all that life has heaved their way.  Sure, we all learn tricks of presentation, learn to serve ourselves with a garnish... but change the inside squishy stuff? Nah.
We in the story biz have certain responsibilities though, right? Responsibilities that often translate to Happily ever after or at least, Ah ha! I now see the error of my ways cliche’s. To avoid them is to cut into our own profits. More importantly: To avoid them may be to disappoint our readers who are counting on us to get our heroine safely to shore... To piss off the very kids we seek to entertain.
Sigh. Endings torment me. Living them, watching them, reading them, writing them. Perhaps all my novels and life experiences should end mid-sentence with: And then a Giant Monster appeared on the horizon! Oh no! A giant HUNGRY Mons--! 
xo Amy  


Rita said...

> A stupid ending destroys the book backwards, as if the story is being sucked back in through its asshole to puke itself inside out.

You have such a way with words.

I have been thinking a lot about your talk from the SCBWI-LA Summer Conference, where you also talked about human beings coming into the world the way they are. I'm definitely struggling with my book's ending. Thanks for sharing these ideas again--and so eloquently--in this blog post!

For what it's worth, I do generally believe it's the author's job to show how happy endings can be possible despite seemingly impossible situations--especially children's book authors. But I thought Poison Ivy earned out its ending perfectly--and brilliantly. That's a different kind of book. That ending, I felt, was the point, and the person who hopefully changes is the reader.

Barrie said...

I am rewriting the ending of my current ms because it just didn't fit. So, your post is very timely. :) Hmmm....maybe I should just stop mid-sentence! Oh, and now I must read Poison Ivy.

Bagman said...

The Slithery DEE!