On Endings

I may never get used to having a sky. For my entire adult life, I looked up at the cold metal tiles and fluorescent lights of Persei Waystation, and that was fine with me. Even just staring out the window had been enough to give me vertigo before too long– a person could get lost in that view, her gaze drifting forever among the endless expanse of stars.

But now there’s no ceiling, only a white sky, and two yellow suns shining faintly through the haze.

Thus starts my current project, a science fiction short story which is currently running about 6,000 words long. I’m extremely pleased with this story– the writing is strong, the characters are stronger, and even the setting is feeling pretty good after a few revisions. At my writing group, it engendered comparisons to Arthur C. Clarke. That may be overstating it somewhat, but the point remains: I definitely feel good about this story.

Nevertheless, it’s still making me hit my head against a wall. Why? The ending sucks. This isn’t me being overly critical of myself; like I said, overall, the story is very strong. But the ending just doesn’t live up to the rest of it.

Part of my problem may simply be the nature of short stories. Short stories are expected to have extremely strong or surprising endings; this one doesn’t. Instead, the ending is essentially when the main character realizes that everything is okay– that her source of conflict doesn’t need to be a source of conflict after all. It’s about making peace with yourself, and your decisions. And I want the reader to feel a sense of peace after reading it.

Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time creating that aforementioned sense of peace, without either falling into one of two extremes: (1)either having the story peter out with a whimper, or (2)having an overly sappy ending. When I wrote fanfiction in college, there was a term for those stories: WAFFy. WAFF stands for Warm-And-Fuzzy-Feeling, and it’s a dangerous line to walk. If you push the happy ending too hard, it feels sappy, and the reader ends up feeling vaguely nauseated instead of “warm and fuzzy.”

I’ve pretty much been fighting to overcome this by writing new endings until I come up with one that feels right. Under other circumstances, I might set the story aside for a few weeks and come back to it, but I have a tight deadline on this one: I’m trying to finish it by the end of the month so I can submit it to the Writers of the Future contest.

I’m actually hoping that by blogging about it, I might shake something loose in my mind so I can finally put the story to bed.

If that doesn’t work, Plan B is overdosing on Christmas cookies. That may not help the story, but it should be fun anyway.

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  1. Pingback: Of Stories Honorably Mentioned « Off the Written Path

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