One of my goals for the rest of this year is to work on endings. One of the nice and not so nice aspects of collaborative fiction is often a lacking of endings. I’ve nearly perfected the technique, made famous by M*A*S*H, of stretching a scenario out over multiple installments – much like the Korean War which last but three years in reality but spanned eleven years on television and 251 episodes. But even M*A*S*H had to end and its season finale was one of the most watched TV finales in history. Ah, if only I should be so lucky.
This year may be half way through, but that means it’s a perfect time to search for some endings to some of my tales and some of my characters. I had already made the decision to actually wrap up my modern fairy tale The Midnight People with the help of my fellow writers. It’s a fantasy tale of dark versus light with lots of grey areas in between and it just naturally begs to have a grand finale like when Aragorn claims his throne and saves Gondor with an army of ghosts against the Dark Lord Sauron. It’s good stuff and the meat of the fantasy genre. My story, however, has stalled and waits me to lead it to the crashing crescendo of gore, valor, and dénouement. What causes me to pause in this plunge to the end?
I often wonder if just the thought that the story is to end makes it seem less worth while? I’m not sure if my ambivalent feelings towards reaching the natural climax of a story is something that other writers experience. Is my reluctance to take up the reins of a story that I know will then be finished and done with akin to the feelings that the writers of M*A*S*H felt as they reached the end of their tenure: a mixture of relief to be done and sorrow to have no more to do?
Since I have had such trouble orchestrating the ending of my tale of Elves and Men I have decided to work on some lesser endings. In my modern zombie apocalypse collaborative novel FLESH I have taken several story threads as far as they can interestingly go and still be a zombie story. With all the zombies nearly gone it’s time to wrap it up. Again there is a bittersweet feeling about it as these include several of my favorite characters. But therein lies the rub: no character can go on forever. When it’s time to throw in the towel and call it a night, like poor old Clyde Alden in the 1987 film version of The Witches of Eastwick putting his wife Felicia to her eternal rest, you know it. There is a feeling of ennui around the character or a feeling that you’re forcing things, desperate to find yet one more scenario to throw them into.
Better to take that poker and end their existence with some pride still intact.