Finishing The Story

Something I’ve noticed lately in my reading is that many authors have difficulty finishing their stories. They begin strong with fresh new ideas and continue strongly for a while but somewhere two-thirds of the way through the book one senses that the writer is becoming concerned that the individual strands aren’t coming together as effortlessly as had been hoped. In many of these cases I have sensed that the ending is somewhat contrived and most particularly anti-climatic in relationship to that which preceded it. This is unfortunate, of course. It can be a let-down.

And plotting the story in fine detail is not the answer, either. The story line must take on a life of its own and the author must be prepared to go with it like a bull rider  hanging on  for dear life. If this doesn’t happen, the story lacks vibrancy and energy; it will have all the interest of a series of points on a graph.

I am noticing this in the book I am currently reading, Louis L’Amour’s HONDO. This story has a strong beginning. The premise itself is strong: into the life of the attractive young widow struggling to raise her young son in her remote cabin home, freshly  deserted by her husband  and hostile Indians all around (Holy Cow!) rides the self-sufficient self-made typical L’Amour hero with his sturdy steed and mean dog. He knows Indians and how to survive .  She knows love and how to have a relationship. The story moves forward on this premise with verve – until it doesn’t. The plot brings Hondo to the widow, then takes him away from her, and then brings him back to her – with the obligatory dead Indians, dead husband, dead dog, and entire  troop of dead cavalry  in between. So he’s back to stay now, but there are still thirty pages to go. The only thing left to do is contrive. L’Amour does that as well as anyone, but in reality, the book ended much earlier.

What’s the solution to a limp ending? Let the story carry you as you write it. Follow it wherever it takes you and never worry about how it will come together. The secret is, the story will end itself. You may have no idea how, but if you let it lead you, it will take you there.

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