I think one of the most difficult tasks in telling a story has to be changing the ending.
I watched “An Evening With Stephen King” yesterday. I’d taped it off of Canada’s “Book TV” a few weeks ago. A number of things he said hit home. I could write many blogs about them, and I may, but one he said really hit home. He stated he could not write to an ending. John Irving, he said, writes his ending first. King said he could never write like that. He has to make it up as he goes, in so many words. I think I agree.
I’m currently half way through my first edit of a novel. I’d written the ending at the end. I didn’t know it until I got there, so I guess I write like Stephen King: I make stuff up as I go along. My story, as I read it, has events that do not support this ending. They create tension and they pull the reader. I read it and I want to know what’s going to happen next, what these events mean. They just don’t tie well into my ending. They seem like they’re lost.
I thought about this a lot yesterday evening. I didn’t sit down and analyse it; I just let it linger in the background. I went to be early with two books that didn’t last long, and I lay tossing and turning in the dark for at least two hours.
During one of my rollovers, a new possible ending hit me. It felt better, so I ran through it in my head. Yeah, it worked, but it still felt like a Swiss Cheese ending. I then used another King technique. I asked “what happens if?”
I created a situation in my mind that seemed nonsensical. I said “why?” Then I asked “Would you do that?” Hmmm, I just might. The reaction would be … Oh, that’s a reaction I like. That’s a payback reaction and something the reader needs to think about. And you know what, it links to all these events I’d written and want to keep. The impact on my main theme is still unclear, but it does whack a major Canadian institution upside the head.
I’m thinking about it, will think about it as I write, and will keep my options open.