How wicked should the ending be?

What was Hemingway’s secret for writing endings? Make people feel something more than they understood.

Here is the way most writers work.

Their imagination conjures up a story.

They write an opening.

Then they race hell bent for leather toward the final paragraph.

Every story has to go somewhere.

Every story has “The End” attached.

Or does it?

So many writers feel as if they need to tidy everything up at end of a book and make sure there are no loose ends hanging around.

People live.

They die.

They live happily ever after.

Their dreams come true.

Writers believe that need to take a long trip, come home, and leave their car in the garage when their travels are done.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s probably the best way to write.

I know it’s the safest way to write.

But is that life?

Our lives are filled with stories, but are any of them actually resolved at the end of the day?

Mine aren’t.

Ernest Hemingway

I have long been influenced by the works of Ernest Hemingway.

I don’t always like his stories.

But I do love the way he puts them together.

Hemingway was once talking about wrapping up a story, and I never forgot his words.

He said: It was a very simple story called “Out of Season” and I had omitted the real end of it which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.

I thought it was genius.

That was his secret: Make people feel something more than they understood.

Hemingway didn’t particularly park his car in the driveway when his travels were over.

He parked it beside a long open road.

Was the journey finished?

Maybe.

Were there still miles to go?

Probably.

Hemingway allowed the reader to become part of the story.

He triggered a reader’s imagination.

And the reader could write his or her own ending.

I try to do that when I write my own novels.

For example, when I finished Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, Eudora Durant was talking to a young lady who had just gone to work for the little weekly newspaper. These were my final paragraphs:

Walking out of the darkness and into the dim light of a street lamp came a lady with a shaved head, wearing a flannel white nightgown, ripped off above her knees.

A yellow cur dog trotted along beside her.

She looked neither left nor right.

She was carrying a Winchester rifle.

  “Don’t worry about having to find new stories every week,” Eudora said as Faye Marie joined her on the boardwalk.

“Why not?”

“In a boomtown, you don’t have to go out and find stories to write.” Eudora shivered slightly even though the air was hot enough to scald a catfish in shallow water. “In an oil town,” she said, “the stories come out of nowhere and when you least expect them. They come looking for you.”

The dog barked.

The woman’s shoulders jerked.

Eudora wondered when the rifle would fire, how many times it would fire, and if it would be ruled a justifiable homicide.

“Should I write about her?” Faye Marie asked, pointing at the woman.

“In time, you probably will.” Eudora followed the girl back inside and shut the night out behind her.

The ending demanded one thing of me.

I must write another novel about an early boomtown in Texas.

The reader may not care.

But I’m intrigued with the woman who has a shaved head and a Winchester rifle.

I have no idea why she’s in town.

I can’t wait to find out.

Please click HERE to find Bad Side of a Wicked Moon on Amazon.

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  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    It was a joy to read this idea, Caleb. I just finished JAKE and finally got to write THE END after an ending that was not. I hope that makes sense.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      It does, Jackie. I always have to write several new endings to find one I like, and that means going back and writing several new beginnings that make the ending work.

  • The ending contains two chilling little spoilers for happiness. By design. Stories don’t end – ever.

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