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09/27/2010 • 11:22 PM 10
09/27/2010 • 2:45 PM 0
But sometimes we get stuck. The story unfolds, but we aren’t sure how to end it correctly. When you get stuck for a last paragraph, I suggest you look to your first paragraph. Your ending’s seed often grows from the opening.
The right opening is intriguing, informative, gives a sense of place and introduces the problem. You may think of your closing as a callback (as comedians label a bit, perhaps a finisher, that recalls an earlier premise.) After the last word, ask yourself how your reader will interpret the story. How did the character change? What was learned (without being too obvious or moralistic)?
Short stories shouldn’t be too obvious in their endings, of course, but you have to find a balance between showing a situation and telling your reader what to think. Too often, in an effort to be subtle, writers veer off into the obscure. Sometimes people write arty endings. Some teachers even seem to encourage that. I don’t.
As a writer, a mysterious ending makes me think the short story author is trying to distract me from their muddled thinking. I am not distracted by flowery words that say nothing. I’m irritated by that. As a readers, unclear conclusions feel like camouflage for a place where the writer stopped the story rather than ending it.
Opaque writing is unsatisfying. You can be subtle without leaving the reader stunned into incomprehension. Good short stories, with a proper beginning, have a clear ending. Give it an interesting middle and you have a story.
Tall orders, I know. But that’s what it takes. I’m struggling with a short story ending now. However, I’m confident the solution to that tricky last paragraph will be found in the first.
09/27/2010 • 11:29 AM 0
I spent a good chunk of yesterday at Toronto’s Word of the Street books and magazine fair. The event is huge. I remembered it when it was a much smaller festival. Now they take over all of Queen’s Park and close the streets. I met some old friends and made some new ones. Word on the Street takes place across Canada in various cities. If you can go, I recommend it.
I know I loaded you up with links last week. As a result of my day trip to Word on the Street, here are just a few more:
Details about Bloody Words, the Canadian Mystery Conference, can be found at www.bloodywords.com.
For information on the Crime Writers of Canada, go to www.crimewriterscanada.com. Members include authors, publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers and literary agents as well as developing writers.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is a non-profit organization supported by Canadian Journalists and advocates of free expression. They defend the rights of journalists around the world. www.cjfe.org