Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happily Ever After

I love it when my muse just shows up unexpectedly. No call beforehand. No knock on the door. No need to pick up that pile of clothes in the corner or sweep the floor. It's like having the best house guest in the world, and they come bearing gifts!


I've been under a lot of stress lately and the urge to do any writing or editing has been at an all-time low. I finished a short novel for NaNoWriMo and took a couple weeks off in December and then found out that the date for my daughter's scoliosis surgery would be January 20. Suffice it to say I have been a bit distracted ever since.

A funny thing happens when I'm doing nothing but trying to take my mind off something. I think of the strangest and most wonderful things. I suppose it's a byproduct of an active imagination going into overdrive in an effort to shield itself from the scary, unknown, things that are keeping me up at night. That being said, I hadn't had any new ideas worthy of pursuing for quite some time and it was starting to get on my nerves.

Then she showed up. My muse. And she was wonderful.

I had just finished seeing the movies The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. I had also just read the book Fahrenheit 451 and was working my way through Slaughterhouse Five when it hit me: the best idea for a novel I've ever had. In my mind it's destined to be one of the best novels ever written, but for now let's just say that it's a good idea, and I am thrilled that it popped into my head when it did.

I quickly scratched out some notes and sent them along to a couple writer friends whose opinions I trust and asked them what they thought. I was pleased to hear that this would be a book they would read - and they weren't just saying that because they were my friends. They've both given me direct feedback on excerpts that didn't only contain praise. I gave my notes to a third person to look over and they verdict came back the same. Yay me! I had an idea that I was passionate about that, at least at first glance, had some from people living outside my head.

I figure I'll start writing it when my daughter is in the hospital this week. I won't have much else to do and while I'll be contributing to the family scoliosis blog those posts won't take me hours upon hours to write - and we'll be spending full days and nights at the hospital for about a week! I figure I'll get 10,000 words done if I keep off the damn Facebook and Twitter. The only obstacle I can see in front of me is the fact that I have absolutely no idea how the book is going to end.

I can envision a prologue and epilogue that bookend the story nicely but I can't seem to dream up that last page. This is a strange feeling for me as I normally start with the end and then create all the things that needed to happen to get the reader to that last point. I thought I had the perfect ending and told one of my idea sounding board friends and she didn't like it. Her husband did because it wasn't a "standard" ending, and that's probably why I liked it too - at least initially. Happily ever after endings drive me crazy. Sometimes people die, sometimes the bad guys get away with it, sometimes the boy doesn't get the girl. The more I thought about it though, the more I was worried about what kind of message my ending would be sending.

This was also a strange feeling because to this point nothing I've written had any sort of message. At least nothing that I would consider profound or noteworthy. They are just bits of entertaining fiction meant to be enjoyed. Move along please, nothing to learn here. This new idea however has a message and one that I feel is rather important. How the main character ultimately relays that message to the reader, I think, will make a substantial difference in how that message is digested. Get it wrong and risk the reader becoming too focused on the actions of the main character instead of on the message she is carrying.

Maybe I'm over thinking it? Maybe I should just start writing and see where the story takes me? I've got a couple hundred pages to churn out before I hit the third act climax and have the MC realize their dramatic need (or not). Still, it doesn't quite feel right. Not knowing how that last page unfolds is disconcerting. I guess I'll spend some time thinking about the possibilities and jot them down with my other notes and see which one feels right.

One thing is certain, it won't end with "and they all lived happily ever after".

~ Andrew

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