Monday, December 16, 2013

The Ending You Want

The school term has come an end, which means that I'll get some time off for Christmas. I'm going to visit my parents, who live in another state, for a few days. The rest of the time I'll be in Chicago. I'll be using my Christmas break mainly to work on my dissertation, clean out my apartment, and write fiction. Oh, and I'll probably "relax" at least 5% of the time and do something fun. (What? I'm a neurotic workaholic, not a laid-back slacker! And even when I "relax" and do something that isn't work, I'm still thinking about all the work that I have to do.)

Now that I have some free time, I've come back to my manuscripts, one of which includes a love triangle. I've come up with more than one ending for it. In one ending, the main character ends up with the "right" guy. But something about that ending feels wrong to me. I feel like it's the ending that I want, not the ending that the main character wants.

For me, my characters do become "real", in some sense. Not real in the sense that I ate breakfast with the main character and am going to go out later and give wedgies to annoying people with her best friend. But "real" in the sense that sometimes when I'm writing, the characters say or do something that surprise me, because I hadn't even been thinking about it before. That's why I'm not very good at plotting, because I don't always know what's going to happen ahead of time. And I think that's part of what makes writing fun. (Of course, if plotting works for you, keep doing it.)

At first, the main character resembled me in many respects, but as I kept writing, she started developing a personality of her own. (But she still possesses several of my traits, such as the fact that she yells at her neighbors to MOVE OUT when they have one of their "Let's party like we don't have neighbors" parties.) That's why when I tried to write this one ending for her, it felt like she kept shaking her head and saying, "NO! That's what you would do, not what I would do."

If I change the ending, it changes the entire tone of the story. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is hard for me to just let go and let the characters tell their story. In addition to being a neurotic workaholic, I'm also a control freak.

One reason I've been thinking about this a lot lately is that I didn't get the ending I wanted with my crush. No, I didn't ask him out, but he did snub me recently. I won't get into specifics on how he snubbed me, because I'm still nervous that he'll find this blog somehow (incidentally, outside of the blogosphere, most people don't know that I'm Neurotic Workaholic or even that I want to be a writer, because I keep my writing life a secret).

He didn't snub me in a cruel way, not in the way that would make Taylor Swift write an angry song about him. But it was more of a thoughtless snub, and it cut deep all the same. The ending I wanted was one where I could finally give up online dating FOREVER and be with a guy who I thought was worth the wait. But it just didn't turn out that way.

Don't worry. I'm okay, or at least I will be...eventually. I'm going to go listen to one of my Taylor Swift playlists on my iPod. Yes, I have more than one.

Does that ever happen to you? That is, do you find yourself struggling with the ending or other scenes, where you want your characters to act one way but they keep resisting and make the scenes fall flat or come up with their own scenes? How do you deal with it?


  1. Oh my gosh yes! It happened to me in more then one story, that's why they are sitting in a corner being ignored ( or punished). But I "sat down" with my Character and listened to what they had to say.

    During the holidays the Characters who's stories I am currently not working on are going to a party of sorts. I have created a fun story where the characters of all my stories are at a gathering. All bad guys at one table Good guys another children ,, well you get the idea. I am thinking they will talk to each other and get more ideas for the stories they are in or other stories that can be created later.

    It's a fun read and writing project. They seem to be a lot more open with each other then I thought. The story is called Character cafe.

    For most of my stories I have a general out line of who's in the story and where they are going and my thoughts of an ending, I work to flesh out the characters and scenes. But sometimes they do surprise me. It can be fun and frustrating. Usually they win of course because its their story not mine, but I plead my case with passion. can't say I don't try.

    Taylor swift sings you can write about your heart ache,,

    It's what we artists do


    1. Hi Debi,
      A lot of people make fun of Taylor Swift for writing about her exes, but I think that writing is a good emotional outlet. Also I just really like her music. :)
      I like your idea of the Character Cafe. It is interesting to think of all your characters sitting down together and seeing the different ways that they respond to each other and their surroundings.
      I've tried making outlines for my stories before, but I wasn't very good at it. I can make outlines for my dissertation, but that's different because I already have a bunch of notes.

  2. I always find it interesting when characters get bossy. I have to learn to let them follow their own paths more often!
    Aww, well, maybe there's someone out there with a crush on you :-)

    1. Hi Deniz,
      It'd be nice if there was someone who had a crush on me. Normally the only guys who hit on me, though, are the ones who really creep me out. It's never the guys who are nice and cute.
      I think if I learn to let my main character follow her own path, this story will ring true.

  3. Definitely! Sometimes I feel like my characters are controlling me, and not the other way around O_O It's a scary but very exciting feeling. It's like the story has a life of its own. Sometimes I just let it go to see exactly where the book is headed, and sometimes I have to put my foot down and insist that it's done my way.

    1. Hi Julie,
      It is definitely exciting when the story and the characters come alive, because then it shows that you're doing it right. I just need to figure out when I should do things my way or the characters' way. I suppose I'll know it when my main character stops interrupting my train of thought and lets me write; I like to think that means she agrees with me. :)

  4. Oh yeah. I fight and argue with my characters like a crazy person. But you know, I always go with what they say. It makes the story so much better. ^_^

    Best of luck with your writing. Hope you manage to relax a bit. (Although, if you're like me, you relax most when you're actually doing something. ;-))

    1. Hi Misha,
      I definitely feel better when I'm doing something productive; when I'm not doing anything, then I just keep thinking of all the stuff that needs to get done and I can't relax.
      My main character has been popping up in my mind again and again, and each time she does I've thought of new ways I could rewrite her story. So like you said, it does make the story go better when we go along with what our characters want.

  5. So sorry to hear about the "bad ending" with your crush! I saw that your blog post and your theme is about being a workaholic and I thought some of your readers or even you might like this design:

    have a nice day!:)

    1. Hi Angeline,
      Thanks for the link! I'm at my parents' house right now in a different state; they have spotty Wi-Fi and an old computer so it's difficult for me to access the Internet right now. That's one of the reasons I wasn't able to respond to your comment until now. But I'll check out the link when I'm back in Chicago.

  6. I'm sorry you were snubbed.

    I'd say a happy ending is a good, but leave something messy--unresolved, not happy. To me, those are the most satisfying endings.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Theresa,
      The ending has been the most difficult part for me to write in my manuscript. When I read other books, the ending often makes or breaks the book for me. That is, if I don't like the ending, it ruins the book for me even if I liked the rest of the book. So that's why I've been working hard to get this ending right.