Anticipating the End

I love the tingly sense that the end of a story is near. You can see it out there on the horizon, so close, but not ready to be touched just yet. You know it’s creeping in, but you can’t look at it directly or it will dissipate like fog, gone forever.

And since it’s Christmas Eve I’ll use that analogy – it’s like being a little kid again, sitting near the tree with its lights and decorations, grasping that nutcracker and thinking, tonight the magic will happen and he will turn into a prince.

Hands hovering, fingers near the keyboard, or lightly holding the pen, breath almost held, knowing the words are almost here, almost free.

Of course the downside of that anticipation is the fact that soon, the gifts will all be open. The end of the story will be written and all that’s left to anticipate is the long slog of revising and the business end of getting the book out there.

But for right now, the story is still just mine, still magical, still unknown.

And oh so close.

Potential piece of cover for book #3, Ghost Roads

Potential piece of cover for book #3, Ghost Roads


Stubborn Characters

I’ve said this before, but I have fun with Yahoo Answers. I go to the books and authors section and read posts about writing. I answer quite a few, and in answering am forced to pause and think and learn. I see many topics that come up repeatedly. Some of the very, very common questions include ‘what should I name my character’, ‘what do you think of my story’, ‘I want to be a writer but need an idea’, ‘how do I get published’, ‘can I write a story when I’m only twelve’ and so on, each one so earnestly asked and so deserving of time.

The most recent one I saw asked for tips on how to develop a stubborn character. The person wanted to know what to do with an annoying character that refused to have the personality the questioner wanted.

Sounds like my kind of character. Or at least some of my friends. Stubborn, unique, individual, doing what they want. I like the character already.

Seriously though, I responded because I think all writers have had that happen. Matter of fact, those can be the best characters because they don’t do what we want.

There can be so many reasons for this. One thing I usually ask first, is if I am trying to force a particular character into the wrong role. Sometimes that character belongs in a different part of the story.

It reminds me of the time my friend (and author) Susan Schreyer, had problems with this one very meek character who just wasn’t doing what Susan wanted. Turned out this very meek character actually wanted to be the villain. When Susan realized that, the whole story took on a different shape and pieces fell into place.

Sometimes the character won’t do what you want because you let personal feelings get in the way. I actually had a character who reminded me of someone I did not care for. I so wanted that character to be the villain. Vicarious revenge. I struggled with the plot line until I realized that my personal emotions had to get out of the way of the character, and then the story line developed easier. Kind of the opposite problem that Susan had.

Sometimes it’s as simple as the writer not having fully developed the character, so that the character isn’t understood.

And sometimes the plot develops in a way that pulls out action from the character that the writer didn’t plan for.

There are so many reasons for something like this to happen. But it brings home to me just how wonderful it is when a character is so alive that they become a life outside of our expectations. If the character is alive like that, then I’m willing to bet the story will be, too.


Not a character in a story, but still a character.

Not a character in a story, but still a character.



I’ve mentioned before how I usually know the ending of a story before I know anything else about it. I end up writing my way to the very last line, which is always there during the process.

I’ve also mentioned before what my theory is on stories. That they are all around me, and really, really want to be told and don’t care how they’re told. So if I outline, or talk about a story before I’ve finished writing it, then it’s been told. The story is happy and it goes away and I’ll never finish it. Which is why I’m careful not to talk a lot about a work in progress.

So this week, while visiting with my friend Jenni, we got to talking about the writing process and I realized that my two comments above are connected in a way. If I don’t know the ending, there’s no tension. If I talk about a story, basically tell it instead of writing it, there’s no tension. And without that tension, I won’t write.

That got me wondering if ‘tension’ is the right word. Could it be anticipation? Is it the mystery of the unknown? Not knowing the story, discovering it as I write it?

Well, what’s the definition of ‘tension’? Skipping over to an online dictionary I find the expected definitions of stretching and tightening. But then I also find this: ‘a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements’ and ‘an inner striving, unrest, or imbalance…’.

For all you artistic types out there (not just writers), isn’t that what it feels like before the project is finished? A simmering sense of anticipation, inner striving toward something unknown, and a lack of balance? These things, I think, are what drives someone to create. Would I take the time out of my busy life to write 100,000 words if I wasn’t striving toward fulfilling the anticipation, toward finding that balance? Think of the huge, heavy mental sigh you give when your creativity is captured on paper or canvas or even in your job.  I know I usually am overwhelmingly relieved that I made it to that very last line before the story escaped.

So I guess ‘tension’ is a good word. However, I read a blog post a week or so ago about how, when you’re struggling to find just the perfect word in your story, and nothing seems to work, to use the definition instead. I agree with that because the phrase ‘an inner striving or unrest’ explains the writing process, for me at least, much better than ‘tension’.

How does it feel for you, before you pick up the pen, the paint brush, the crochet hook, the garden trowel, the hammer?