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September 19, 2006

I've already covered endings in my June 8 blog, but I feel it's more important to go into more detail about it. So, here goes.

My art show starts tomorrow night (Wednesday, September 20). "Patterns Within Patterns" is a showing of my black and white artwork, presenting the possibilities of unity between black and white. But it's not just black and white on which I'm focusing. I have other pieces I'm not taking that show other colors getting along. Specifically, my stipplings.

I do three color stipplings. I've had one on my art page since this site went up:

I actually did this piece for an introductory art class, but it's become one of my most popular pieces. It's actually the left side of a 10x18 piece. The right side has Spider Grandmother, Vishnu, Thoth, and several others celebrating, while Quetzalcoatl stares suspiciously at the Jesus figure pictured above. Jesus, meanwhile, feels he's being watched and looks back. The broken glass around Jesus' head is actually the bottom sepherot of the Tree of Life, of which the top sepherot is represented by the egg held by the Guardian of Easter Island (which has a significance that has never been discovered). The remainder of the Tree connects the two, passing in front of the other gods and discoloring the light where is passes between them and the viewer. The purpose of the piece is to demonstrate how the isolationism of some religious groups in recent times is causing more problems than it solves and will only lead to trouble.

When I conceived this idea, I thought it was brilliant. I made this by first drawing all the gods on the sheet of paper shown. I then drew the Tree on a separate sheet. Once I had them both, I put the main sheet on top of the Tree on a light table and used both drawings as a guide. Unfortunately, I didn't fully understand color, yet, and created too much contrast. Much of what I did on the right side with the Tree was lost except for the sepheroth.

I knew exactly how I wanted the piece to turn out, and I got it there. I only had two problems. First, I had only six days to finish it, so I didn't have the time I needed to test the coloring. Second, my measurements for the Tree were off, so the paths connecting to the top three seperoth (the important ones in Qabalah) were greatly elongated.

I love the piece so much I'll be remaking it someday. I've even thought about making a life-size paper maché of it.

The important thing is that I knew what I wanted to see before I made that first tracing line I knew where I wanted to end up. Much of my art is that way, but that's how I do all of my writing.

It's a pain for me to go into a discussion group for writers and inevitably see a topic such as, "My true love story has turned into trashy porn! HELP!" I always ask the same question, and I usually get the same answer.

I ask, "What's your ending?"

The answer? It always comes down to, "I don't have an ending."

The ending is the most important part of any creative effort. This is what your readers actually see. They never see the previous drafts, unless it's in a classroom text. So, they assume that what you see is what you intended.

If you intend it, let them see it! That means you have to stay on track. To stay on track, you must know where your story is going, a specific destination. And that destination is the final scene.

Walters Rule of Writing: Never write one word until you know your ending.

Let me dispel some myths about endings:

  • The ending is not the climax. It finishes the denouement, or falling action. It's the end to the consequences of the climax.
  • The ending does not continue the story. It finishes the story, answering the last questions that need to be answered. You can let the story ask one more question, as long as it doesn't pull on the reader to want to know the answer.
  • The ending is not an action-packed thrill ride. This has upset me about some movies in recent years. We saw the climax, got caught up in the action, got pulled into the movie, waited for the consequences--and suddenly, the movie was over. This is always bad in writing because the reader won't be satisfied.
  • The ending should not throw a moral in our face. This is always bad writing. The moral should be disguised, but apparent, within the denouement, but not necessarily the ending. The ending should show consequences of actions based on the theme.

What is true is that Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind backward, starting with the last chapter and ending with the first. This is the next best technique, but not having a beginning is just as bad for some writers.

There are three purposes to knowing your ending:

  • The ending keeps your story on track. If you know where your story is going, you can direct every word in that direction.
  • The ending narrows your storyline. Those needless threads, many unconventional ideas, and excess characters will disappear, making the story more readable.
  • The ending will make you be more focused. Thinking about your ending will help you make better decisions when you get to critical points in the story.
I prefer to actually sit down and write the ending as soon as possible. That way, I'm set on the path I want. Unfortunately, there's one story with a transition from one plot to a second plot that I'm having trouble with, so I'm examining that last scene to see what I need to add or leave out--yet another advantage of having an ending.

Great writers have said they knew their ending beforehand. J. Michael Straczynski had the ending to Babylon 5 long before it went into production. Robert Jordan hasn't finished his Wheel of Time series yet, but he's said several times that he knows exactly how it ends. So don't start writing without an ending.

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