I have discovered the biggest challenge I have as a writer is how to end a story. I always admire other authors who can end a novel perfectly, sliding in to home base gracefully with a rousing cheer from the crowd. Meanwhile, I have the impression that as I’m racing from third base I start to stumble over my feet and fall flat on my face as I hit home. I then hop up as quickly as I can, dust myself off, and look around furtively to see how many people noticed.
I spend a lot of time trying to rewrite that fateful run.
The problem is not limited to novels. It can also include blogs. In the past, I even worried about how to end e-mails. At least, I have finally come up with a fail-safe method for those. The reliable ‘Have a nice day/evening/weekend’ is always well-received, often prompting the same ending when the e-mail is answered.
The problem with endings is that they can easily sound awkward. It’s like being at a party and not being sure how to make your exit.
First of all, it’s about timing. You don’t want to leave too early, because then you’ll be branded a party-pooper and a disappointment. On the other hand, you don’t want to be the last to depart, because the hosts will be rolling their eyes behind your back and wondering how to get you to shut up and leave. I have spent countless evenings trying to convince my spouse it’s time to go. But, I digress.
Secondly, it’s about how to say your goodbyes. Is a simple ‘Thanks, that was fun.’ sufficient? Should you put more feeling into it, with a hug and an exuberant ‘It was wonderful!’? Of course, it often depends on how well you know your hosts and, in some cases, how much alcohol has been consumed during the evening. You may not have any choice when it comes to the level of exuberance. But, again, I digress.
My point is, in my opinion, the ending of a piece of writing has the highest potential for awkwardness and I tip my hat to those who have mastered it. After all, it is when you and your reader go your separate ways and you want to leave them with a good impression.
So…um… I guess that’s it. Anyway, have a nice day (evening/weekend).
****A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal being released in July 2015 by Second Wind Publishing.