Saturday, August 20, 2011

Endings, Again

Near the beginning of the month, I wrote a post about endings -- in real life and in literature -- and included the closing paragraphs of a novel, Dragon's Rook. One of my concerns is the apparent depressing nature of the ending, because a few characters die in a short amount of time, at the end of Part 3 and Part 4, which may concern the readers about what the next book will be like.

My niece recently read the first novel in its entirety; and, like previous readers, she (who picks up on all sorts of nuances) missed what I thought was a glaringly obvious statement in this paragraph describing a king's daughter-turned-warrior and a horse bearing the body of an enemy soldier with whom the king's daughter is now allied:

Captain Gaerbith’s horse pricked his ears and danced sideways, eagerness in every line. Yanámari rose to her feet, hope surging. The horse behaved as if his master lived.
Leaping astride her mount, she grabbed Kraekor’s reins and turned toward the gates.
This is at the end of Part 3 in the manuscript. To me, the "clue" is obvious, but most readers haven't caught it. Perhaps that's because they're focused on the rest of the action. Therefore, "hope surging" and "(t)he horse behaved as if his master lived" are too quiet when compared to the noise of battle.

Talking to Niece #1 about her thoughts on that scene -- by the way, she wanted to immediately read the next book, which is still unfinished --  she said, "Well, he expected to die there, because it fits with the prophecy he was given." True, true. And there will be no fiddling with the prophecy or the circumstances, no telling the reader, "Psych! It was all just a big misunderstanding!" because that would weaken the story, the same way the "it was all just a dream" trick never really works.

Except for individual scenes, such as a character having a vivid dream that seems real, because the jolt factor can keep a story interesting and take it into new territory -- but using a dream as the whole setting for the story? That's a surefire way for me to throw the book across the room and never read anything by that author again.

And it's one reason I'm back-and-forth about whether or not I'll buy the DVDs of the American version of the TV series "Life on Mars" that aired a while back. The show was cancelled, and -- as I understand it -- the writers had to scramble to write a suitable ending for the story. What they created was a version of the "it was all a dream" scenario. It's clever, I'll admit, and it works to tie up loose ends and even makes me chuckle, but it still feels weak somehow, an easy out for all the build-up and suspense.

"Lost" is another show that was a huge let-down for me, with its variation on the dream trick: "we've been dead all along, and now it's time to go toward the light" -- a weak, empty ending that never answered the questions or took responsibility for all the story that had happened up until that point.

So, back to Captain Gaerbith being dead or alive: both are true in that instant, and the prophecy has been fulfilled. Then again, I do have a scene written where it is fulfilled again, but that is for much later in the story.

No great spoiler here: Gaerbith survives Book One, and is a vital part of the next book and what happens with the other male lead, because the two storylines eventually meet and the men join forces to find something ancient that was lost. There will be battles and journeys, and romance, too, because even battle-hardened warriors need love, and there are strong, brave women to stand at their sides. Not all the beloved characters will remain, and there will be sorrow, but hope will very much be present when "The End" is typed at the bottom of the final page. Any grief can be endured, if there is hope.

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