The Final Curtain

This weekend marked my DD’s last performance for our local children’s theater.  In the eighth grade, she is too old to act in next year’s spring production.  Over the years, she’s been a swamp monster, a gansta, a maid a wife, a jitterbug, a…well, you get the picture.  She’s been there a while and is a natural performer.

Sunday was tough.  True to my usual, emotional self, I cried when that final curtain closed.  It is an era I will greatly miss. 

This sense of finality is the same one I get upon finishing a good book.  I lament the loss of the characters and wish I could follow them for just a bit longer.  Just one more play, please.  A line or two to make departure not quite so harsh. 

I don’t want to watch my characters disappear behind a curtain, knowing I will never hear from them again. 

However, writing on and on long after the climax peaks is never the right answer to maintaining a relationship with favorite characters.  Nor is trying to resurrect them in sequels, trilogies or series after the story is spent. 

Instead, we have to learn to graciously dim the lights and let the curtain fall.  Hoping, praying, knowing that a new character will take the stage, and with it, our hearts.

At least I know that’s the case in real life.  You see, my Middle Son has been in plays for the last two years.  Youngest wants to join him in the spotlight next year when he comes of age (1st grade).  They will bring new humor, drama, animation, character and talent to the theater.  Different?  Definitely.  And that’s a good thing.

I shall gladly welcome in the new cast of performers. 

Both on the stage and in my books.  For the last curtain never truly falls as long as we live with fertile imaginations, task-master muses and prolific plot bunnies.

By ending each story at–well–the end, we can keep our favorite characters vibrant and alive in our minds.  These successess pave the way for ferreting out the next generation of actors.  Our stories will not get dulled by hanging on to our favorite MC’s with unrequited love.

I have often heard aspiring writers talk about their sequels, trilogies or series.  The next eight books….  Even I am guilty of fostering a love affair with a particular pirate family and have scads of ideas for a series.  The second book is already half written.  I don’t want to release them.

So how do we know when The End is really the end?  When do we drop the final curtain on a story? 

Ar you guilty of adding scenes, chapters or epilogues because you simply can’t say good bye?  Or, do you cut off the action immediately after the climax, leaving readers to feel cheated out of a standing ovation?  How do you wrap up just before typing the end?

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8 responses to “The Final Curtain

  1. With my only completed novel, I knew from the beginning how I wanted to end it which definitely helps. LOL That said, I knew what I wanted because I knew I wanted ambiguity. I wanted to leave the reader with the understanding that if one of my characters made a move, changed their mind, etc., then the ending would have a Disney-esque happy ending – and then I ended the novel before that might happen. That way, the reader will (hopefully) return to that thought again and again.

    • Victoria,

      Great idea to be so deliberate about the ending. Sometimes I envy writers who know exactly where their books are going. I’m not quite that organized…. And as a reader, I love those books that make me wonder, every so often, about the characters and how their lives turned out!

  2. I was having a difficult time finding the end to my steampunk ms. I finally realized I needed to delete several chapters and wrap it up much more quickly. Once I did that, it flowed better. I was probably suffering from just what you described 🙂

    • Jemi,

      I’ve done the same thing. It’s so hard to know how much to leave the reader with. Often, those little loose ends can be sewn up throughout and don’t have to wait until the last second. Because then the last second can be very loooooooooong!

  3. I suffered from the same thing. Going back and merrily adding scenes to my ms. not wanting to let it go. Then of course there was just that much stuff I had to delete when I got my head back on straight.

    I do miss the kids musicals and plays and all that fun stuff from grade school.

    I have a little something on my blog for you. No pressure, just a small token of appreciation.

  4. For some reason, endings seem to be easier for me than beginnings or middle. In fact, I frequently rush to get to the end because I know what it is. Then I really have to work to discover what the story’s ABOUT. LOL. I can’t call this organized, it’s just the way I am. ;D But I also adore books whose characters are so real they continue to “live” in my imagination afterwards. I know those authors succeeded in their creations and I try to emulate what they did.
    Rowlings, Mercedes Lackey and Guy Gavriel Kay have all got me either dreaming or daydreaming about their characters and worlds.

    • You are lucky there, Victoria. I can start a story without so much as a blink. Really for me, it’s the middle. I know where I start, where I want to end in a small sense and have no idea about the in between. Inevitably what happens is that I get part way through and the in between makes my initial ending idea impossible.

      I guess the ability to weave the three together is what separates the wanna-be’s from the real writers! Here’s to us making it into that latter category!

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