Who decides how you should you tell your story?


I HADN’T WRITTEN all morning.

I kept sitting there and staring out the window.

Don’t know what I expected to see.

It was dark.

The Muse was staring out the window, too.

He didn’t stare long.

He gets bored in a hurry.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m at a crossroads,” I said.


“In my novel?”

“What’s wrong?”

He acted like he cared.

I didn’t believe it for a moment.

“I’m near the end,” I said.

He nodded.

“It’s about time,” he said.

I nodded.

“I don’t know which way to go,” I said.

“What has you stumped?”

“I have two different endings in mind.”

“Pick the one that work’s best.”

“I’m afraid to choose that one.”


“It’s a sad ending.”

“Is it the most believable?”

“It’s really the only ending that works.”

The Muse kept staring.

He waited for the darkness to grow light.

It didn’t.

“What’s the other ending?” he asked.

“It’s a happy ending.”

“What kind of novel are you writing?”

“It’s not a mystery this time.”

“You writing romance?”

The Muse sounded incredulous.

I shrugged. “The story has some romance in it.”

“Some sex?”

“A little.”

“Then what’s the genre?”

“It’s what they called New Adult,” I said.

“You know what that means?”

“Not a clue.”

“It means you have to pick the right ending and tell it with conviction,” the Muse said.

“How do I decide?”

“Easy.” The Muse smiled. “Here’s the decision you have to make,” he said.

Should you tell the story the way you want to tell it?

Or should you tell your story the way the reader wants to read it.

I nodded.

“Then what I think doesn’t count.”

“It never did,” the Muse said.

A bird was singing.

The morning wasn’t so dark anymore.

The Muse sat back and smiled.

I hate it when he smiles.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Roger Summers

    When that happens, I send the Muse outside to mow my lawn. With all of the rain these days the grass is so tall he’ll be out there for a good spell. Then I listen to Michael Smith’s “Glory” or a bit of Johnny Cash and, presto, I know how to end my story.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Roger, my Muse is too lazy to mow the grass. Can I sublease yours for a while? I know how to end my story. But common sense says I should end it in a totally different way. The battle goes on. Thank goodness I’m not at the end yet.

  • Don Newbury

    Your muse reminds me of T-shirt spotted in the mall the other day: “I Don’t Believe Everything I Think!”…

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Don, I don’t even understand everything I think.

  • Don Newbury

    Somewhat amusing that both you, Roger Summers and I guess many more folks have muses!…

  • Love your cover, Caleb.

    But about the ending: sorry – I go the other way. It is my JOB to decide how the story ends. Readers don’t get more than a thought (will they abandon me?).

    If I want ambiguous stories, I’ll read the newspaper.

    Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee didn’t give readers what the readers wanted.

    If you read my story, you may or may not agree when we reach the end. But you should believe I’ve made my case.

    Stylistic differences – thank goodness there seems to be readers of all kinds.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, I like a writer who has conviction and sticks with it.

  • That is a vexing question. Sometimes my story ends differently to what I had imagined, but I allow it. I would love readers to read the perfect story, but the ending needs to be true to the story, for it to be perfect. There can be no other way. I always thought that my duty to my readers means I write the story as it should be written, because I’m loyal to the story I am also loyal to the reader. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll change my opinion later, but this is it right now.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Wisdom I do need to consider, Woelf.

Related Posts