More on short-story endings
Published: December 1, 2007
|Sharon Oard Warner wrote about "The challenge of short-story endings" in the October 2005 issue of The Writer. Following is some additional advice from her on evaluating your endings.|
Look to the stories you love for solutions to your problems with endings. Review some of your favorite stories, both classic and contemporary, paying particular attention to openings and endings. Make notes on what you discover. What promises do the openings make, and how do the endings fulfill them? Generally, you'll find that the endings keep the promise, but not in the way readers might predict.
Do these stories end with reflection, exposition, an image, a snatch of dialogue? How does the ending contribute to the mood of the story? Does it shift or change the mood? How so?
Now look to your own stories and make some comparable notes. It may be tempting to begin revising the first story you pick up, but I advise you to wait until you've completed an inventory of your recent work.
What promises do your openings make? (Here, you'll want to consider subject matter, mood and conflict.)
Robert Olen Butler calls humans "the yearning creatures of the planet." Does your protagonist yearn, and if so, for what? How does the yearning propel the story forward, and how does the ending fulfill it?
Do you close the door on your story too soon, before the reader glimpses "the shadowy presence of another story"? Or do you end too late, after "the last breath"?
Do your conclusions always hit the same note? Are you in a rut? If so, cast about for ways to vary your endings. Trace one of your stories backward to the moment when it might have gone in another direction. Take a new path toward an unexpected destination. Surprise yourself!
--Posted Dec. 1, 2007