Nancy: Echoes and reversals, beginnings and endings

Last week, a friend of mine, who happens to be a writer (quelle surprise!) posted in her Facebook group about being obsessed with beginnings and endings as she starts a new writing project. I’m in the same headspace right now for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’m about to embark on my own new writing project. The second is that my husband and I finally got to watch a proper ending for an HBO series we loved that died an unexpected death thirteen years ago.

We were Johnny-come-latelies to the prestige TV phenomenon of the series Deadwood. But after years of having the story recommended to us by trusted friends, we eventually watched the first episode. And we were hooked.

The very first scene* had a twist I saw coming but couldn’t quite believe would really happen. The first season introduced a community of characters who were sometimes repulsive but always magnetic, storylines that focused on character minutia but were simultaneously sweeping, dialogue that was vulgar while also Shakespearean. And as we watched the last episode of the third and final season, we realized with dismay what the show’s early fans had experienced in 2006–this amazing story, unexpectedly canceled after the third season had wrapped, never got a proper ending. Continue reading

Nancy: And In the End…Elements of Strong Finales, Part I

I’ve been thinking a lot about story endings for the past few weeks as I near the end of the first draft of my Women’s Fiction WIP. But in truth, I’m always thinking about story endings – mine and others’ – from the first page or a manuscript or book, the first episode of a TV series, or the opening scene of a movie. (Cue PSA: This is your brain on writing.) But when I’m actually coming up on a final page of my own, I have an irresistible urge to procrastinate look at beginnings and endings of other stories.

This topic was an important part of the McDaniel course training of the eight ladies, and with good reason. The ending has so much weight to pull. Tie together disparate loose ends, but not too tightly. Illustrate the character arcs with subtlety and call-backs to other important moments in the story. Keep the story promise that made the reader/viewer join you for the story journey way back in the beginning when you were just saying hello. And then there’s the kicker that applies to every part of the story, but is magnified for the writer at the end of a WIP (often resulting in a frenzy of head-desking, second-guessing, and thinking that something else – anything else! – would be a better/smarter/easier use of one’s time than writing): there is no universally right ending to your story, only less wrong ones. For proof of this, you need only read online discussions and dissections of every movie and TV series ending that has occurred since the advent of the internet.

I’ve had many of my own moments of ‘Oh no, they didn’t!’ at the ends of books, movies, and TV series. Looking just at TV, I was annoyed and let-down by the end of How I Met Your Mother, and am wont to believe the story (rumor?) that the writers expected a much shorter run, and never really adapted their vision of the ending when the series ran for many more years than they’d expected. Don’t get me started on the Seinfeld ending. And – yes, I’m going to go there – I have mixed emotions about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series ending, which missed a lot of obvious opportunities for emotional impact and story promise fulfillment, but that also got a lot right.

So over the past few weeks, as I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding my own ending preparing for the important task of writing a fabulous ending, I’ve revisited beginnings and endings of several books and TV series, and have broken them down into elements that set my little writer heart all a-twitter.

The Story Promise Revisited.   Continue reading

Nancy: An Oldie But (Hopefully) a Goodie

Because my day job is in a high-stress, deadline-driven field, I have a tendency to have weeks at a time when I don’t have time to write, or sleep (much), or blog. The past several weeks have been just this kind of time, and adding to that, we had Puppy (real name Pepper) to foster for 10 days.

Puppy, aka Pepper, channeling beagle patron saint Snoopy.

Puppy, aka Pepper, channeling beagle patron saint Snoopy.

Here is a picture of Puppy and me saying goodbye the day she was going back to her owners. (The smile was for the camera; we were ridiculously weepy to say our final farewell to her). But there’s still another week of crazy before I can get back to some semblance of a normal writer’s life (ha!), so today I’m going to cheat a bit by sharing one of my favorite blast-from-the-past posts, written in 2013 before the 8 Ladies told anyone outside their immediate families and closest writer friends that we were embarking on this blogging adventure together. It combines two of my favorite topics: writing and the Beatles! What’s not to love? So until next week, I’m going to carry that weight down the long and winding road while I leave you with some food for thought, Fab Four style.

And in the End…

Most people who know me in the non-internet world, and a few who know me via the internet as well, know I am a HUGE Beatles fan. I am not of the Beatles’ generation or the time period of their music, but I love their work, their persona, and their lore with the intensity of a thousand suns. So imagine my pure joy when, last week, I came across a local radio station playing the original Beatles collection (albums released while they were still together as a group) on vinyl. And in listening to the beginning and end of this day-long broadcast (with the inconsiderate interruption of the day job in between), I got to thinking about story beginnings and endings.

Hearing the Beatles’ earliest recorded album, Please Please Me, as I drove to work, and then hearing their last recorded album, Abbey Road, after I arrived home that night, made me realize how much that last album took the band back to its roots. Continue reading