Kay: Quiz for Y’all: Must I Show the Wedding?

Dear readers, I need your help again. I have finished book three of my interminable trilogy about Phoebe and her steadfast beau. Brimming with triumph, I showed the final two chapters to my critique group last night, and…they didn’t like it.

Here’s their problem. After three books of Phoebe’s not being ready to get married, now finally at the end of book three, she’s ready. Our hero has a Plan, and she says, surprise me.

The surprise is taking all the book’s characters back to Las Vegas, the city where they met, where they will be married in the wedding chapel by the people who first employed Phoebe when she arrived in Vegas at the start of book one. (Now they live in Washington, D.C.) The final scene of book three is everybody just boarded the plane, ready to rest up from the vigorous trials of the day before and me tying up loose ends.

My critique partners didn’t like this because, they said, I have to show the wedding. If I’m going to bring in all the characters for the last scene, I need to bring in the wedding chapel characters, too. They said readers have been waiting for three books to get to the wedding, so I have to write it. The wedding is what it’s all about. They said that’s all the loose-end-tying-up that I need.

Ugh. I do not want to write the wedding. I disagree that the wedding is what it’s all about. (And I’ve had plenty of agents and editors tell me this trilogy isn’t romance, so I feel like I’m right on that one.) I do not want the last scene of the book to be in Vegas, where the protagonists no longer live. (Aristotle’s theory of unity of place!) I do not want to reintroduce the wedding chapel and the wedding chapel characters, who have not been seen since book one. For anyone reading this book as a standalone, I’ll be introducing new characters on the last two pages, which I think, will require too much explanation and backstory. I think the wedding is anticlimactic, and it will be a pain to write. So I don’t want to do it.

What do you think? If you’ve read a trilogy about two people who aren’t getting married, do you want to see the wedding at the end? Thank you, as always, for your insights!

21 thoughts on “Kay: Quiz for Y’all: Must I Show the Wedding?

  1. It’s a little title hard to answer without knowing they story in more detail, but I’d say that, unless something unexpected happens during the wedding, I don’t need to see it in detail. In my mind, it’s knd of like the characters heading off to have sex. Unless something changes during that event, I’m content to have the door close behind them and mentally filling in the d tails myself.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Elizabeth! Yeah, I’m probably presenting the argument biased toward my opinion, although I tried not to (too much). In my experience, they’re never wrong, although there’s always a first time. And this, I think, is the time!

  2. Well, just to be clear, *I* think it yanks the story around. The crit partners say not only does it not yank, the movement is necessary. They like taking the story back to Vegas because the couple met there; the title sequence (“Skirting [Whatever]) is based on the uniform she wore at the job she had there; story-wise, they could get married quickly, since the wedding chapel owners, who had a big part in book one, could set up the wedding immediately; the hero’s family is there, so they could attend the wedding.

    I am in fact taking them back to Vegas. It’s just that right now, they’re on the plane, so they’re bound for Vegas, but still really in D.C. And that’s where I end the book. The crit partners want me to write the wedding at the wedding chapel. This feels anti-climactic to me—unnecessary, since we know they’re getting married, and the wedding will go off without a hitch. Why belabor it?

    Although, by listing all this stuff, I’m talking myself into writing the stupid wedding. She could wear the work uniform for her wedding outfit. It’s a big poodle skirt. It turns on the hero. I could cut the entire plane scene. Do I want to do that? Still no. But I guess I could.

  3. Well, my first thought when I saw your tweet about this was about Lord Dono, the transLord who changed his sex in order to inherit, but in his previous life had had three weddings. He was begging for a royal wedding invitation, and said something like how he enjoyed a wedding; at the very least, he could sit in the audience thinking, “At least it’s not ME up there!”

    A lot of people do like a wedding, and traditionally, it’s the Big Bang that finishes up the book with fireworks. In Bujold’s case with that particular wedding, she did show it in detail, but the real climax was the reception afterward. All the loose ends got tied up in the fuzzy afterglow.

    Another one of her characters, Ivan, got married to the love of his life, and I don’t remember a thing about the “real” wedding, if it even made it on paper. (It was one of those “marriage of convenience becomes real” plots.) I didn’t feel cheated. IIRC, the book ends with them enjoying tropical drinks in his new tropical posting.

    So . . . I like a wedding. Is there a way you can end the book on a bigger bang than a wedding in Vegas? Some authors like to stop — they feel they’ve primed the pump, and the reader can imagine a bigger and better wedding than they can write, so they leave the reader to it. As a kid, I hated that kind of ending, and I don’t remember reading anything like that as an adult, so it’s not a memorable way to end the book.

    I guess I see a big set piece as a kind of reader service. It’s not necessary to the story, but it’s the floral arrangement on top of the cake. From what I’ve read from book one, this is a big, over-the-top wedding cake of a story, and you need to finish with something fabulous. A cup of mint tea and the promise of a cookie later isn’t going to do it.

    Doesn’t have to be the wedding, though. Could be the honeymoon.

    Or, you can treat the wedding as a short story in its own right. In the Vorkosigan series, Miles’ wedding to Ekaterin was a short story called “Winterfair Gifts” which actually revolved around a heinous plot against the bride-to-be, and the two characters who flirted their way towards solving the mystery. We got to see a whole new view of Miles — as seen by his retainers.

    But I have to admit, it wasn’t as satisfying as the reception after Gregor’s wedding. THAT was beautiful — biological fairy lights, gorgeous gowns, yummy alcoholic desserts, and everyone basking in the happy-ever-after.
    I vote for writing the wedding, if you possibly can. Let loose, go over the top, and break all the rules that you can break stylishly.

    • I love the idea of the wedding as a separate short story. BUT…

      The book needs to end quickly, the whole plane scene already feels like an epilogue. So if I wrote the wedding, I’d keep it short, and I’d cut the plane scene. What I like about the plane scene is that everybody in the book is on the plane, and everybody has at least one line. They’re all contributing to the festivity. If I switch that out with a wedding scene, it will be mostly between the H/H, plus I have to introduce the new characters—the wedding chapel people—and because I still need that scene to be short and to the point, everybody else, I think, will be sitting silently in the chairs, more or less. Not really what I wanted to do, because the emotional content of the couple takes place in the scene BEFORE the plane, when they commit to each other after three long books. So from there to the end, it’s got to be short, and right now, that’s the plane. The weddings usually are the big bang, though, you’re right. Argh. Well, I’ll try it your way. I’ll write a wedding scene and see how I like it.

      I refrain
      In pain,
      It’s all about
      the plane.

  4. Late to the party–I was out visiting museums with Justine all day yesterday! I have Thoughts. Without having read the book I could be completely out of order here, so please take with a pinch:

    What happens at the wedding? If nothing happens except the happy couple are finally blissfully happy, then it’s a boring end to an interesting story and that would be a shame. If there must be a wedding, it should be an interesting wedding. If there was a way to get them married in the smoking aftermath of the big finale, or soon afterwards in the charred ruins of the hero’s McMansion, or in the hospital chapel, whatever, that would feel much more true to the story and their likely life together. Things are just going to happen like that when Phoebe’s around.

    I love the idea that they get married (or make a lifelong commitment to one another) with their community around them. Making it in Vegas is neat and tidy in that it brings the book full circle, but they already left Vegas and moved on, so I don’t think I’d feel a sense of satisfaction from seeing them there, more a sense of dislocation from the rest of the story.

    My biggest niggle, though, is something else: Phoebe’s agency. If the whole series has been about Phoebe’s fear of commitment, then the end of the book should be Phoebe making a public commitment in a way that leaves the reader (and the hero) in no doubt that she is going to stick with him through thick and thin. Saying ‘I’m ready now,’ and then leaving all the choices to him so all she has to do is show up and say ‘I do,’ does not show her being engaged and fully committed, it implies to me she’s still holding back. If she’s finally getting married, I’d prefer her to own this wedding, not just show up at it.

    Not sure if that helps. Good luck, whatever you decide to do, and congratulations on finishing the trilogy. I’m looking forward to reading it!

    • Also to add, having read your reply to Elizabeth above, if there is a previous scene where the H&H commit to one another after three long books, that’s the end of the story. If the wedding is after they make that commitment, then it’s an epilogue and I don’t much care where it happens because I already got my emotional payoff and I’m going to skim it wherever it’s set.

    • This posted behind your second post, so I’m inserting this sentence to say that. 🙂

      Interesting! Right, the plane scene, although I write it as a chapter, is essentially an epilogue. But the idea of holding the wedding in their front yard, which has been completely torn up by Vlad the Assassin—or maybe even the driveway, because the garage got blown up—maybe with Jamal as the officiant and Chase’s family on Skype…that might be good. The going-back-to-Vegas thing bothers me, too.

      In regards to your second post: yeah, whatever I do is pretty much is an epilogue. The main point of the emotional scene that precedes the plane scene is that although they have been engaged (the condition of Chase’s agreeing to move to D.C. in the first place), Phoebe has wanted to wait to marry. In this second-to-last scene, it’s Phoebe who asks Chase to marry her. So that’s a big move for her, the big finish to the emotional arc we’ve been waiting for. And I did want to have an epilogue-ish thing that showed them actually taking the step—she’s not backing out. I thought the plane would do it. The crit group thinks it has to be Vegas. Now I’m thinking maybe the destroyed front yard. Must cogitate!

      • I like these ideas as well — on a plane, on a train, in the bombed out ragged lane. Talk about rising from the ashes! As Michelle says, you can stop at the True Betrothal, too. Everything’s exploded around them, and Phoebe is like, “City Hall. Tuesday. After the blood tests.” Or have her whip out her phone and make the reservations for the plane to Vegas as proof of her commitment.

      • I’m even later to the party than Jilly, but just popping in to say that it sounds more like a denouement than an epilogue. In the series I’m writing, I seem to be doing some books with one and some without, depending upon what I think the story needs. Your writer brain seems to be telling you this story needs its denouement.

        Just a thought – instead of asking Chase to plan the wedding, could she not say anything and plan it herself (off-page, of course) and surprise him with it? That would seem to bring her character arc re: commitment to a new place.

  5. I agree with Jill. Character agency is important. Does she commit earlier?

    Also, in Pam Regis’s essential elements, the Wedding/Dance/Fete is one of the three optional elements, but the betrothal is an essential element. Of a romance. Since your story isn’t strictly a romance, you can ignore that, but it does speak to Phoebe’s commitment.

    • She committed to an engagement at the end of the book two, the emotional arc for that book. So now in book three she’s engaged but wanting to wait to marry. In the last full chapter, she asks the hero to marry her, and she indicates “soon,” and he interprets that to mean “immediately.” Well, that’s pretty much what she means. Vlad the Assassin just blew up their garage, a failed attempt to kill them all, so she’s thinking she doesn’t have all the time in the world, after all.

  6. Pingback: Michaeline: A Question of Conformity – Eight Ladies Writing

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