"It Ain't Over Till It's Over' or...


When You Get to the End, STOP WRITING! by Gino Bock.



Among the authors I know there is no consensus about using story outlines. Some writers use outlines, some don’t. I’m one of those that don’t. I always plan to, just like I plan to put money aside to pay my bills or plan to lose weight so I’ll fit into that suit I don’t want to send to Goodwill, but the truth is I never do it. I jump at the keyboard, excited because I thought of a great, exciting issue or problem, usually from an incident in my own memory—something  that actually happened to me. Then I just start writing. After all, with such a great party-starter of an idea, this just has to result in a great story, right?

Uh, not necessarily. To me a great story needs two things. A terrific beginning, which grabs readers and drags them into the story, hungry for what happens next. But  it needs a greater, even more terrific end, something that resolves the plot, does something unexpected and leaves the reader with some lesson learned or a new way to look at life…in other words, it changes the reader, maybe just a little or maybe a lot. That’s a GREAT ending.  The middle, where everything happens, has to be good- good enough to get the reader to the great ending and good enough to justify the terrific beginning. But the middle can be complicated and confusing (that’s why it’s referred to as the ‘muddle’) and doesn’t get the fun job of resolving all the conflicts and solving all the mysteries. 

If I were a part of a story, I wouldn’t want to be the middle. I’d have to do all the work and I’d get none of the credit. Too bad. There are no unions in Storyland. Tough noogies for the middle. I’d want to be the end. That’s where the goods get delivered. That’s what people remember. If the end of the story makes the reader stare at the last page, wailing, “NOOOOOOO!” then I can count on at least one sale for my next book.

That’s a heavy burden to put on a few pages or even a few chapters. That’s  asking a lot from a thousand words or so, many of which didn’t even plan on being in the book. The ending has a few big jobs to do. Primarily it must resolve the main plot- in a who-dun-it, we learn the who. In an on again-off again romance the couple either winds up together or apart, decisively, this time. Lassie finds Timmy and helps him climb out of the well.  The bad guys get punished, the good guys get rewarded (or vice versa, that makes a good ending, too) and all the subplots that are wandering around unattended like children at a carnival must be hunted down, corralled, fed, diapered and driven home for a nap.

The action comes to an end and all the questions are answered and everything is neatly tied up with a big bow. Does that mean it’s a great ending? Not to me. I’ve done all that stuff and more, yet still I kept writing because it didn’t feel like the book had ended. Something big was missing, like instead of finding an amusement park at the end of the road, I drove through the sign that said ‘bridge out’ and…well,  there ya go…that only really worked for “Thelma and Louise.”

Maybe an outline would have helped. But even if every line on the “Ending: To Do” checklist was marked complete, it still wouldn’t feel right. After all this blathering, what did I really want to say to the reader? Have I said it? Has this long journey been productive? What EMOTION is missing here? Does the end fulfill the promise made by the beginning? If not, I keep writing…and writing… I can’t end the book till I can figure out what’s missing.  When I find  it,  I put it squarely where the reader can find it. Then I go back and remove everything that doesn’t need to be there, no matter how much has to go. If I walk away, because everything’s been checked off so I must be done, the reader will disagree and  turn the page looking for the ‘real ending.’ If I do the job properly, the only reason I’ll write  “The End” is because I’m dying to see those words on paper. But they won’t be necessary. Both of us—the author and the reader--will know exactly when the story ends.

And when that happens, if I’m smart and paying attention, I hope I’ll STOP WRITING!


Bio: Gino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: "Bad decisions make good stories," and Mel Brooks' advice that "You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT."

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015.
Twitter:   ‘ginobardi1’   (just got it, nothing posted)
LinkedIn:  Gino Bardi
Skype:  gino.bardi
Buy link:

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CHANGES by Lois Winston

Cornwall--Land of Mystery by Carola Dunn

THE STORM by John Wills