Thursday, October 8, 2009

Credible Endings

“...if the plan of the story is to work, the writer’s solutions to the problems involved in authenticating the climax must be credible and apt.” -- John Gardner in The Art of Fiction.
I critiqued two stories today that I didn’t feel did enough to set up the climax. In one, a character’s actions at the end didn’t make sense given what I knew about him from the story. Or maybe it was that he was too passive for the circumstances for me to find the character believable. The author intended for the ending to be dramatic, but it left me puzzled. In the other story, the main character died at the end, but that ending seemed overkill for the kind of story being told. Maybe other readers felt differently.

I’ve had the same problem in some of my stories, so I understand how this can happen. As the author, I know a lot more about the characters in a story than the reader ever will. There may be important traits about a character that make him act the way he does in my mind that I don’t make clear to the reader, thus creating a schism between myself and my reader. It’s a problem every writer faces. One way to overcome this is to recognize it can happen and make certain the end of a story, or chapter, or novel, is consistent with what happened to that point in the story.

No comments: