The Last Leg: writing challenges

Chapter 2 of the Skeleton Key can be found at the Inner Owlet.  You won’t be disappointed by the turn of events.  Way to go A.M. Supinger!

THE LAST LEG

Some of you know my pirate chapter book has a three-legged pooch.  He has a peg leg that meets with mishaps and misfortunes along the way.  At the end of the story, he’s literally on his last leg.

Our geriatric black lab is in a similar situation.  She’s had shoulder problems for years and has struggled to walk well since the last hunting season.  Last night she started limping and refuses to put weight on her back right leg.  We’ve known for a while that she was getting close to the end of her life, as we don’t feel it’s fair to keep her alive and in severe pain.  She, too, is on her last leg.

For both these dogs, their journeys have been a series of ups and downs.  Yappy, my fictional pooch, endured shark attacks and lightning strikes.  Kallie, the seventh member of our family, survived heartworm and a hunting incident that ruined her shoulders.  They’ve also been well-loved and pampered.

It can be hard to contemplate the end, even though we all know that life does, indeed, have a definitive finish.

Just like our stories.

Sometimes we lose track of this and drag our stories out too long.   We love our characters so much that we don’t want to part with them.  We may have unfinished business to settle–one more hunting season–so we feel reassured of a Happily Ever After.

What we don’t realize is that the climax has ended and the pain has set in.  We’ve outlived our time, but don’t know how to say goodbye.

Other times, we finish too early–an unexpected turn for the worse that takes us by surprise and leaves us feeling empty and hopeless.  We lament that we didn’t get to properly cherish the last moments.  We have loose ends that need tied up, but no way to do so.  The purpose for our story–for the dog collars and leashes, food and kennels–has vanished. 

But there is a happy medium where we know the end is near and we can prepare for it.  We can say our goodbyes and feel satisfied that everything is as it should be.  I just hope we can do it gracefully when it comes time to let Kallie go.

How do you know when your story is finished?  What steps do you take to make sure the loose ends are tied up during the last leg so you don’t drag your characters–and readers–through a painful goodbye? 

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4 responses to “The Last Leg: writing challenges

  1. Dingle, too, is on her last leg. Since her ACL surgery 18 months she just has troubles. Now its her front shoulder. She is a true sister to your dear girl – sharing the same troubles. Sad days are ahead.

    When I was in middle school I frequently would stop reading books when I neared the end – I did not want to lose the relationship with the characters so dear to me, so I simply quit reading. By leaving the book unfinished I could prolong the relationship. Ultimately I had to go back to the book for the satisfying conclusion; frequently this left me in tears. Not because every book had a sad ending but because I had to say good-bye to my book friends. The books with the best endings had me re-reading them many times. You can’t go wrong with a well-timed, well-paced conclusion.

    • Becca,

      That’s an interesting reading tactic. I was the exact opposite. If a book had any description in the last third, I’d skip it–by pages if I had to–just to find out what happened to my beloved characters.

      My DD, on the other hand, would read the first page and last page of a book. If the MC wasn’t on the last page (IE HEA) she wouldn’t bother with page two.

      Hmmmmm, I smell a post here!

      Hope Dingle isn’t in too much pain. Ours just got some pain killers because her back knee–wherever that is on a dog–is twice the size of her other one. She fell down the stairs the other day and had to be carried up. Since her front shoulders are so bad, I’m guessing they won’t be able to take the strain too long. Very heartbreaking. Give Dingle–and your other babies–a kiss and hug from us.

  2. Aww! I just found this post, and your link to my blog – thanks:)

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