Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The End is Where We Start From

We talked on Monday about the steps each of us undergoes in beginning a new novel. There are as many different variations on how to do this as there are authors. T.S. Eliot quotes, "What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."

Some authors do begin with the ending and write backward from there. This certainly wasn't the case for the screenplay for Casablanca. I was disturbed the first time I watched our DVD and discovered that the filmmakers didn't know how the story would end until it came down to a point in filming where a decision had to be made. Would Ilsa stay behind with Rick, or choose to do the right thing and honor her duty and her husband by leaving with Victor Lazslo? I have to admit that I wasn't so surprised at their flexibility with the moral dilemma as I was with the fact that they couldn't see that the personal sacrifice and growth in the characters of Ilsa and Rick WAS the story.

How important is it to know the ending of a story before putting it on paper? Most of us have at least a vague idea of how our stories will end and structure them toward that. There are many factors to consider when choosing an ending. What do you consider the most important? Has an ending ever gotten away from you despite your bestlaid plans and forced you to change course?


Kathleen Popa said...

I knew the last line of my first novel very early on. The thing that happened before the last thing? That was up for grabs until I wrote it. Knowing how things will end is not the same as knowing exactly how they will get there.

With my second it was the other way around. I knew how The Feast of Saint Bertie ended too, but it was my brilliant editor, Nicci Jordan Hubert, who suggested the epilogue (as well as the prologue). What a gift that was! Like finding the one picture or piece of art that sets a whole room off. So in that case, I knew how to get there, but needed a nudge to see where exactly I'd got to. Bless Nicci.

I love Casablanca for the way it ended. In its own way, Once ended similarly. What a pleasure, that shock of disappointment that it didn't turn out the way I wanted, and then the sweet realization that there was something better, more right, than what I wanted. Hmmm... Is there a message here someplace? You see how messages sneak into stories?

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I love the way The Feast of Saint Bertie opened. It promised a depth of character and I knew I wanted to read about Bertie. Great job, Katy!

Nicole said...

For those of us who write by the seat of our jeans, endings can precipitate a beginning or come as a total surprise in that last chapter or paragraph.

Unpredictable as everything else!

Stories can be so unruly. ;)

Lori Benton said...

With my novel, KINDRED, I thought I knew how it would end. Somewhere in the middle, when I'd grown to know my characters better, I realized their arcs were leading down a different road than I'd expected. But it was a truer road.

As for the last scene, it came to me in a sparkling moment, shortly after I knew how the characters' story arc needed to end (for _this_ book). I think I needed the comfort it provided. :)

Nicole: I love unruly characters!

Anonymous said...

Good topic, Debbie. I knew the exact ending of both Gift and Lying on Sunday and wrote them almost the day I began those novels. The same is true with my WIP. It's like a guy wire that leads me to my destination, it's very important to the way I write.