Monday, February 13, 2017

Beginnings and Endings

Every time I start a new story the very first line I type is the date. I don't know why I do this. Maybe it's a holdover from school when we had to put our name and date at the top of the page. I just don't know. But I do. I've always done it. 

I finished the first draft of Cold Shadow last night. The epilogue took me ten hours to write. It's not that long. About five thousand words. I type thirteen hundred words an hour. It shouldn't have taken all of yesterday and some of the day before to write the damned epilogue.

I suck at endings. I do. It's damned hard to end a story. I can start five million stories a year. I've very good at beginnings. I love beginnings. Slogging through the middles is like slogging through an alligator infested swamp with a butter knife. But I can slog a middle with the best of them. Endings... I suck at endings. I guarantee you that I won't spend more than five seconds rewriting the beginning of this book but I will spend five days rewriting that epilogue. I will second guess it. I will delete it. I will scramble to find the deleted words. I will re arrange paragraphs. I will slash it and fix it and in the end it will say almost exactly what it says right now.

Supernatural season five episode 23 Swan Song: 

Chuck Shurley the Prophet, writer of  The Winchester chronicles narrates what was supposed to be the final episode of the series. That episode has always stayed with me, not because of the series, which I love, but because of something he says toward the end. 

"Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass."

Ending a story is damned fucking hard. Ending a series is something that terrifies me. Writing a series is terrifying enough. I mean ending one book is hard enough. How do you end the second book or any middle book in a series without actually ending it, but ending it enough to say, this part of this story is done for now. I'll see you later down the road. Hope you don't hate me for not tying up all the loose ends and maybe this one didn't end the way you wanted it to, but it ended the way it's supposed to end...and maybe it would be better if they all just... fell into the deepest chasm in the universe never to be heard from again... and yet years later there's still an ending and a new beginning and it all starts over again every single day.

Endings are hard because stories never really end. People still get up and go to work and pay bills and love and laugh or fight... endings are endings. Endings are divorce and death and falling down chasms and shit. How do you end a life in progress? That's exactly what ending a book is like. 

You've created this life, these lives, this world, from nothing. You big banged these people into existence and you put them through literal hell for a few pages of their lives... lives that were probably moving along quite swimmingly before you interfered and threw them into this damned chasm...and then when you're done giving them all of the ecstasy and the agony that you can possibly throw at them in those few pages you get to some spot where you have to walk away from them. They lived. They survived. They have to go forth and pay bills and cook dinners and live and love on their own now. You gave them the tools. Now you have to disengage. You have to leave them. But you have to leave them in a way that feels right. Not like you tossed them out on the street with the clothes on their backs and closed the door in their faces.

Yet it always feels like you shoved them out and slammed the door. Or you didn't untie the apron strings and you're just dragging along behind them begging for one more paragraph...just one more chapter... just don't leave... please... don't leave it like this.

So you epilogue. Past is prologue...what the hell is epilogue... the please don't bug me for a sequel future? And epilogues are so damned final. Unless they are a light flickering on outside of a suburban tract house with a soulless man staring into the window one last time.

Beginnings are easy:

March 18, 2011
Cold Shadow of Doubt
By Mercy Celeste
Chapter One
          He’d forgotten how much he loved Tennessee in the summer. The deep green of the trees seemed so much greener here than in DC. He missed driving dirt roads that wound through overgrown fields and past rambling shacks that had once thrived with life. Abandoned farm equipment sat alongside the road, baking in the sun, the vines sneaking over their mechanical skeletons for whatever nefarious reasons only the weeds knew. 

 Endings: Not so much:

 February 12, 2017
Cold Shadow
Mercy Celeste
He’d forgotten how much he loved Tennessee in the summer. Seems like it had been years since he’d last come home. Instead of just a few weeks ago. Seemed odd that he was back here. Like he was called. Something inside his chest felt tight and congested until he crossed the Tennessee state line.

Cold Shadow by Mercy Celeste

March 14, 2017

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