The Importance of the Ending

I recently finished reading The Privileges by Jonathan Dee, and rather than write a review of the novel, I thought this time I’d write a quick post on the importance of a strong ending. Obviously I can’t do this without giving away the ending, so spoiler alert!

First let me start off by saying I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend The Privileges. Jonathan Dee is a fantastic writer with strong prose and the ability to write morally ambiguous characters with emotional depth. However, I felt the ending was disappointing.

The Privileges starts out strong with a wedding scene told in present point of view and dances between the characters like a film camera. We move from the bride waking up at her mother’s house and avoiding the step-sister she was forced to make a bridesmaid, to the groom waking up in the hotel and itching to call his bride, to the nervous best man practicing his speech in the shower, to the groom’s father sitting at the bar criticizing the bride’s family for planning an extravagant wedding, etc., etc. I was immediately invested in the characters and what would happen to them–would the best man blow his speech? Would the bridesmaid wreck the wedding somehow? Would the two families fight?

In fact, I felt that the entire novel was building toward a big disaster, and I kept turning the pages to find out what. Cynthia morphs from a blushing bride to a bored stay-at-home mom to an overindulgent mother who tries too hard to be her kids’ friend. In order to give Cynthia the life she wants, Adam starts insider trading, makes more money than the family knows how to spend, and as often happens, starts getting sloppy, leading me to believe that one day he will fall–only he never does.

Neither do his children, even though April starts doing drugs and gets into a nearly fatal accident, which her mother just shrugs off. On his search to discover a new outsider artist, Noah ends up in the apartment of a convicted criminal, and though we never learn what crime he committed, we assume it involved physical assault after he hits Noah on the head and locks him in the apartment. Noah escapes and on the drive home begins concocting a lie to tell his family and girlfriend about his whereabouts to save face, and that is how the novel ends. 

When I closed the book, I was left with the impression of having just read a series of events–interesting and engaging events, no doubt–rather than a story. In a way, I felt that there was no point. I think one of the reasons writing endings can be so hard is that they have to be larger than life. Sure, in real life Adam might get away with breaking the law without any repercussions, but in a novel I want to know that his actions had an affect–on himself, on his family, and on others if he gets away with it.

The ending is the reader’s final impression. Authors can do everything else right, but if the ending is weak, that is unfortunately what the reader will remember. This is why endings are so tricky to write! It’s so important to tie up all those loose end subplots and tell the reader exactly what happened to the characters they’ve fallen in love with and invested time reading. 

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96.666667% finished my WIP!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Now that the holiday high is over, are you feeling nostalgic or excited for a new year and all the possibilities?

I’m currently paying for slacking off over the holidays. My deadline for my grant project is looming, and I admit writer fatigue set in when December hit. There were days I sat at the computer for close to five hours and only wrote 1000 words. Ouch!

But it’s a new year, and I’m back in the swing of things and going full tilt. Yesterday and the day before I wrote 3000 words per day! I’ve gotten back into the story and I’m enjoying the research process, which has largely consisted of scouring Pinterest. Check out this skoolie interior – doesn’t it make you want to hit the open road?

I especially love the trough bath! It’s hard to see in this picture (thewaywardhome.com), but it looks like the faucet at the kitchen sink can detach to fill the bath or be used as a handheld in order to shower. I’m also a huge fan of the barn doors on the kitchen cabinets, since it’s a tight space and kitchen cabinets that swing out could present a few problems.

It’s January 4th, and I’m dreaming of summer, and road trips, and camping… Time to stop looking at Pinterest and get back to work!

Vegas, No Baby!

Last weekend Trenton and I went on our first kid-free trip in four years (five if you count the time I was pregnant)! We chose Vegas because it’s a quick 2.5 hour flight, the weather is warm enough to go to the pool during the days, and it’s a surprisingly mellow place to visit as a couple.

I know, the words “Vegas” and “mellow” don’t belong in the same sentence. What we like about Vegas is that there was always so much to do, so many restaurants to eat at and shows to see, that we didn’t really didn’t even have to think—a win for exhausted parents.

Leaving the kids was hard. Not just because I knew I was going to miss them, but because the logistics of going on vacation without your kids takes just as much preparation as bringing them along.

To get my family on board and disrupt their schedules as little as possible, we brought the kids to them, which involved the following: setting up a playpen at my sister’s, dropping toys and bikes off at my parents, teaching everyone how to install car seats, packing individual bags for daycare on Friday, a suitcase for their weekend clothes, and yet another bag full of toys they picked to take. I wrote a group email with a “schedule” that included when my sister would pick them up from daycare, when she would take them to my parents’ the next morning, Max’s nap time, Owen’s skating lesson time (including what to do with Max in that half hour), sleeping routines, and fun activities they could do together to fill up their time.

We were asleep by the time the plane left the runway.

Just kidding. We were pretty pumped to be on a plane and actually able to watch a movie. The novelty of it! Such luxury!

Before we took off, I admit I was nervous. I stood at our gate scrolling through pictures of the kids. “Look, here they are in their matching pajamas! Aren’t they adorable? Does anyone else at the gate want to see this picture of my kids sitting all cute together in their matching pajamas, not even hitting each other or crying?”

After we took off, we went back in time. We didn’t worry about the kids but fell easily into our old life as a couple. Since it was a special trip, we splurged and saw a show every night: KA, Absinthe, and the Vegas Strong benefit concert, which included a variety of Vegas acts with proceeds going to the families of victims of the October 1 shooting.

On the last night, we tried gambling and tripled our money before losing it all. (Which really means we put a dollar into a slot machine in Caesars Palace and our money shot up to $3.08, but then we cashed out and moved to a bad luck machine. Boo!)

It was such a fun trip!!! The perfect first quick getaway. To any parents reading this who feel guilty taking time away from your kids, I can’t tell you what to do, but do it! As long as they’re being well taken care of while you’re gone, it’s okay for you to have time to yourself, and you will come back a more relaxed parent.

Here we are at Absinthe:

Winning at the slots:

Relaxing by the pool:

Two cuties in matching pajamas:

“Make Good Art” – Neil Gaiman

This morning I watched Neil Gaiman’s speech “Make Good Art”. I’d recommend this video to everyone, not just people who consider themselves “artists”. After all, we’ve all been artists at some point in our lives and in various fashions. The child forced to participate in a school art class is an artist. The adult picking out their outfit for the day is an artist.

Neil said he doesn’t think of himself as having a career because that would have implied he had a career plan, and he never did. Rather, he had a “bucket list” of what he wanted to do: “write an adult novel, a children’s book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, and write an episode of Doctor Who“. He says he didn’t have a career, he just moved to the next thing on the list.

When we were in grade one, we didn’t think about everything we should have accomplished by grade three. We accepted the grade we were in at the moment, and then we moved to the next grade. That’s what Neil’s list reminded me of: feeling content with our present developmental stage rather than beating ourselves up for not being bigger and better.

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed balancing a few projects: working on revise and resubmits from publishers, writing an adult novel through a grant process, compiling ideas for self-help sites that asked me to contribute, and beginning work on a technical writing contract I recently picked up. Now I recognize it’s all a journey, and I don’t need to do everything at once–I can simply make my way down the list.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

The other night I watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. While it didn’t make me want to give away all my belongings, I enjoyed it for what it was: a reminder on the benefits of living a simpler life. While perhaps the message has been delivered before, I still found new insights to take away.

I’d never heard of the term “fast fashion”. For those who haven’t either, it’s cheap and trendy clothing meant to be worn for a week or two before being discarded for the next best thing. The footage of dumptrucks throwing away piles and piles of clothes made me sick to my stomach.

I identified with the criticism of buying furniture just to fill up a new house, though I couldn’t help but think the documentary favoured those who could afford large homes and had the disposable income to waste furnishing underutilized rooms. How many people have 3000+ square foot homes that this is even an issue?

Still, a lot of us are fortunate and do hold onto or hoard items that other people might put to good use. Again, it’s a good reminder to not let these items sit in your closet. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Also by sharing items, we all do our part to reduce the strain on our overflowing landfills.

Perhaps what stuck with me most about the film was that “The Minimalists” come from difficult backgrounds (abusive fathers and crack addict/alcoholic mothers), so they grew up with the drive to become wealthy only to realize it wasn’t bringing them the happiness they expected. One man spoke of selling five year olds cellphones to make 50K a year. Life is a learning process and it can take us years to find the right path, but it’s so important to never stop searching and to choose the one that feels right in your bones.

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, give it a watch and let me know your thoughts!

Missing kitty returns!

Have you ever had a pet go missing for over 24 hours?

On Saturday night Tex didn’t come home. After calling for him and doing a walk around the block, we decided to call it a night–after all it’s summer and who doesn’t like staying out late in the summer?

Trenton and I both checked the doors periodically throughout the night, but Tex wasn’t there. We awoke in the morning and expected to see him waiting on the front stoop, but still nothing. The panic didn’t set in, however, until we got back from the pool around 2 p.m. and his little furry butt didn’t run down the front walk to greet us.

For anyone who hasn’t picked up on how much I love my cats, I love my cats. I don’t worry as much about Jet because she has street smarts and doesn’t warm up to just anyone. Tex, on the other hand, has bonfires with our new neighbours, climbs into the mailman’s car for a visit, and follows us on walks around the block. He’s too friendly for his own good (which is what we love about him)!

There has been a heat wave for the past week, so we started to think the worst. Was Tex lost in a new neighbourhood without food and water? Was he resting under a bush somewhere, too exhausted from the heat to drag himself home? Trapped in a neighbour’s garage?

While Trenton rode his bike around the neighbourhood calling Tex’s name, I Googled “cat missing for 24 hours”. The articles said cats who don’t return within 24 hours might be lost or trapped somewhere. If left without food and water, their chances aren’t good. The advice was to walk around the block and check under porches and in trees, knock on neighbours’ doors, and post missing cat flyers.

After Trenton searched, I searched, and then the family searched, walking the streets and calling Tex’s name. It broke my heart to hear Owen crying for his lost kitty.

To distract ourselves, we left food and water on our front step and then went for dinner in an air conditioned restaurant, but all I could think about was going home to check on Tex again. If he was there, I’d cuddle him all night and never let him outside again. From now on, he would be an indoor cat. I would appreciate and baby him like I used to before I had kids. All I wanted was to watch a movie with him in my lap, purring and looking up at me with his big cat grin.

On the drive home from dinner, I burst into tears.

But when we pulled up at the house, it happened: Tex came around the side of the house. I jumped out of the car and raced up the front walk, scooped him up in my arms. The next door neighbour opened his front door and cheered, “Huzzah, your cat came back! I was on the phone with my sister and when I saw him, I told her the cat is back and hung up.”

Tex was a bit shocked by my enthusiastic greeting, but he purred the moment I squeezed him to me. I gave him wet food and water, and then cuddled him all night like I’d dreamed about doing. In the end he was missing 27 hours and he was exhausted, but he was safe. We still don’t know where he went, but we suspect he fell asleep in the shade somewhere. I still plan to keep him inside going forward.

So for anyone who is missing a pet, I hope this gives you hope.

Here is exhausted Tex after he came home 🙂