A Start to Endings

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Today I have endings on my mind. Mostly because last night, after years of sharp hilarity, “Parks & Recreation” aired its final episode. It was absolutely perfect, and it was brilliant, but still, it was the end.

“Nothing lasts forever” is one of those cliches that, through constant use, has become totally meaningless. But no story can keep going. Everything ends.

So how do you know when you’ve reached the end of your story? Not your story your story, which, I assume, would be fairly obvious and is a little more depressing than where I meant to go, but the story that you are writing. How can you know that it’s over?

Sometimes it’s trickier than it sounds. Generally speaking, when writing, I keep an eye on word count so I know where I am structurally, and I know where I have to be going. When I hit a certain point, I can tell it’s time for loose ends to find their mates, for resolution to happen, for arcs to come in for a landing at their final destination.

Which is all very mechanical, and doesn’t really speak to the sense of completion required for a story to feel satisfying to the person reading it.

I follow a simple philosophy, definitely not an original one, but that has been used for as long as there have been stories. Start a story exactly when it needs to start, no sooner. And end it at the point where all that is important to the story has been told. A story should completely fill the space it is given.

Think of a painting of a house. If your painting of a house is mostly landscape, it’s not really a painting of a house. If it’s about the house, that should be the focus.

Like the “Parks and Rec” finale, an ending should leave you satisfied, make you feel as though you’ve taken a trip, and whether you like it or not, the time has come to go home.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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Beginnings and Endings and Round Again

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Today I have beginnings and endings on my mind. Endings, because as of tomorrow, Yahoo! Contributor Network, the place where I’ve written now for three years, is no more. My pieces–along with everyone else’s–will vanish from the internet, hardly leaving a ripple in their wake.

And beginnings because, on Tuesday night, a friend of mine had a baby girl, her second. Her name is Isabel, and she arrived into this world weighing more than eight pounds.

It’s the way of the world, isn’t it? Around us, everywhere, things are starting and finishing, winding up and winding down. You can pick out a person passing by on the sidewalk, any person, and in his or her life, there are any given number of things somewhere along the path.

Maybe it’s because we have them built into our very essence that they resonate around us. Every day has the beginning of a sunrise; every day the ending of a sunset. It’s the rhythm of life, the balance of the universe.

Just the way that beginnings, eventually, lead to endings, endings can give way to beginnings, in that infinity circle. We’ll see where this ending takes me, but right now, I prefer to think of Isabel’s beginning, still sparkling fresh and sweetly bright.

Need something to read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

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The Lingering of Last

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Last, itself contains the whole tale. We know from simply that single word that there are times that have come before; we also know that those times will not come again.

We count firsts, we catalog them, document them, but the thing about lasts is that we don’t know, when we experience them, that that’s what they’ll be. They crystallize into what they are only later, long after the moment is gone, so we have to piece them together in order to remember them.

There’s something inherently wistful about the word “last,” it implies attention not paid and instances squandered. It contains another L-word, “loss,” because it tells us that what once was will never be.

There are good lasts, of course. Last day with braces, last payment on a car, last item on the to-do list, but even with those good ones, it’s not the last, itself, that shines. It’s not the last that makes it good.

It’s the first that’s next to come.

Like a mystery? Try Her Cousin Much Removed. Or download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities. It’s free!

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