Monday, April 23, 2012

Heading West – Time To Head For The Sunset


In Romance, there is always a happy ending. The lovers make it through all the trials and tribulations to come out together on the other side. Because this is always the case, one might say, "So all the books are the same."

Oh no, my friend. They are not.

Everyday ends with a sunset, but rarely do two sunsets look the same. And I can't think of anyone who would ever say, "Gosh, another sunset? How boring."

If you know someone who might say this sort of thing, give them a good poke in the ribs for me. Okay. You probably shouldn't poke anyone. I take it back. But maybe look at them really funny. That's fair.

So you're sitting around the 2/3s mark on your WIP and find yourself stumped about where to go next. Look west. Look toward that HEA. Where do you want these characters to be at the end? Do they run off together? Do they settle down right where they are? Does she sacrifice what she thought she wanted? Does he embrace something he never thought he wanted?

And most importantly, who does the groveling? (There must be groveling. Never forget the groveling.)
Once you've answered these questions, the next one is simple. HOW DO I GET THEM THERE?

Sure, it doesn't sound simple when you're staring at what appears to be a no-win situation.

He would never give up A, B, and C, even for love!
She would never put him through D, E, and F just for her.

This can never work out!! [insert much gnashing of teeth] But it can and it will. After all, these characters are meant for each other. Now keep breathing and stay focused.

Keep your eye on that HEA and the answers will come to you. The ending you wind up with might not look exactly as you pictured when you wrote page one, but that's okay. Don't forget, too much commitment to the story in your head can be as much of a road block as anything.

For those pantsers in the group who are thinking, "But I never have any idea how the book is going to end until I get there." You're writing Romance. You know there's a happy ending. Whatever other details you're lacking, you know that much. By the time you're this far into the story, you should know the characters well enough to know what would make each of them happy.

Even if it's one tiny thread. One commonality. Find that and figure out how to make that happen. You don't have to know everything or even a lot, but you always know that HEA is out there. Out west. Now go find it.

How about you? Pantsers and plotters, I want to hear from you both. How far out do you know how your book will end? Have you written an ending that was completely different from what you intended.

For readers (which is everyone, really), is there an ending to a book that stayed with you long after closing that cover? Years later? Is there an ending that took you by surprise? Disappointed you?

33 comments:

Maureen said...

I've been fighting my HEA with 'Almost Human' for weeks now. Lord knows...I could picture an ending, but the more I threw at Ria and Sam, the further away I got from having the slightest idea how to get them to HEA.

Yes, I am a pantser, but I generally have an idea of where I want to end.

I had an idea with this story, but the more I wrote...sigh.

I envisioned them poised on the crater's edge at Mt. Lassen, staring at each other...fade to black.

Yeah, it was that bad.

I was 2/3 through with the book and I hit a blank...I sorta knew where the story was going, but that ending? The HEA? Eh. The world would be saved, evildoers punished, sunshine for all...save for Sam and Ria.

I skipped ahead and worked on that crater scene. I figured if I could write that scene, if I could see how they would face each other and not fade to black...then I could back track and write that last 2/3-final scene.

So far? I'm still at the crater, but... It's there, that HEA, but it's a bit flat.

I'll get there... At least it's closer than it was.

MsHellion said...

With GOGU book, I didn't know how it would end--not when I started. I honestly didn't know if the hero would live or not because I knew from the get-go I wasn't writing a traditional romance anyway. So that was some of the appeal. I was trying to understand why a heroine would fall in love with a guy like this; and what exactly it was that she fell in love with. Then by the time, I fell in love with him, I didn't want him to die. So I let him live, making all literary people gnash their teeth in rage.

As for the first book I completed, I always knew the heroine would die (don't worry, she comes back--think The Princess Bride) and the hero would go to barter for her soul. And I knew what it would take to make it happen, so by the time I got to that part, it almost raced along. That was the most fun chapters I wrote, the black moment on. (Which was fair because the rest was rather hellish.)

Now this one...oddly I knew how it would turn out. I knew some of the beginning, very little of the middle, but the ending I could see. So I hope by the time I actually get there, it goes like the Lucifer manuscript and just flies along at that stage.

However, for the A&E story, you know I don't know what the end would be. I knew it was romance so they end up together, but I never got a good handle on the black moment or how it would get there and how to get them back together. It hasn't gelled yet. Sometimes I think I NEED to know the ending before I start writing the book, and if I don't KNOW, I will only flounder around.

quantum said...

I think that the HEA is really the icing on the cake, after the story is done. Can't think of any particular one that stands out for me. It's the journey's that are memorable. All of my favourite authors have unforgettable journeys!

For a disappointing HEA I would pick Lexi Revellian's 'Replica'. The story has identical heroine's, one being replicated from the other, and of course they have identical tastes and fall for the same guy. I had all sorts of expectations for a double HEA to resolve this little problem, but alas Lexi killed off the replica. Killed one of the heroines!!!!!

To be fair though, Lexi would say that she wasn't writing romance. LOL

TerriOsburn said...

Keep swimming, Chance. Keep swimming! You'll get there. From what I know of this story, those two deserve their HEA. Make it happen, woman!

And I'm relieved you admit even for a pantser, you have an idea how the story will end. Ah, progress...

TerriOsburn said...

Hellie - I think it's pretty clear which book was the story of your heart. LOL! And I get that way about the ending. I can see it clear as day, but I can't write it until I get there. I've written down notes early on for how I think it will go, and then what I write is always completely different.

But having that carrot dangling before us, pushing us to get there is definitely motivation to keep going.

TerriOsburn said...

Q - She killed one of them?! Wow. That's a brave choice. Though as you say, not officially romance. Still, I think it's always brave to kill off a major character. Unless you're Sparks, then it's just annoying.

MsHellion said...

Har, har, har.

Though true.

As for Q's quandry, I figure the "replica" was killed because she was a clone that was not independent of her. So she wasn't "human"--and it could be justified, so to speak.

TerriOsburn said...

Human or not, that's still a character the reader cared about. But then I have issues with killing off characters. :)

No one has an ending that stayed with them? I do love the ending to Crusie's BET ME. Hysterical and so in character with the entire book. Definitely not your typical ending.

Marnee Bailey said...

I don't generally have an issue with the black moment and then making it work out into a HEA. I do have an issue with that phase right before the black moment, where they fall in love and actually think it might work out, despite their differences.

I think it won't be that bad this time around. I can sort of see how it'll play out now, how they "fall in love." Now to just get that on the page....

TerriOsburn said...

That's the pit of despair, Marn. Don't even dance near the edge. You'll get this story on the page and it will be beautiful. I'm sure of it!

And I struggle with that same spot. What's up with that? It's like I know what's coming but I know they don't know what's coming and I feel awful for what I'm about to put them through. Then I get all mopey and embrace any and all distractions.

But then I can't get to the fun ending without going through that black stuff, so there's really no choice.

Janga said...

I write the final scene early on, but I sometimes have to change it when everything that came before is in place. The biggest change was when I wrote a concluding scene with one hero and then in the process of writing other scenes, the hero morphed into a different character.

My favorite endings? Jill Barnett's Bewitching, Eloisa James's Pleasure for Pleasure, Lisa Kleypas's Dreaming of You, and most of SEP's books. If the second epilogue is included, I'd add Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked. And the best essay on HEAs is Jenny Crusie's "Glee and Sympathy."
http://www.jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/glee-and-sympathy/

Maureen said...

If I weren't so distracted by so many other things filling my brain, I could sit down and hammer this scene into shape. I may just let it lie (lay?) flat and go back to the last 1/3 of the book and write.

Probably what I come up in that section will help to add the punch I feel the crater scene needs...

But yeah, I generally have an idea of where I'm going. I haul anchor and know I want to go somewhere sunny...but have some real adventures getting there...

P. Kirby said...

I'm stuck at the moment, but the horns of my dilemma get their point from non-romantic aspects of the story. Probably because I don't exactly write romance, even though the characters are headed for a happy ending, together. Basically, the hero is a criminal from another universe, exiled (hiding, more like) on Earth. I have a vague idea of what it is that got him in trouble, and that was enough to get me in about 30K. But now, I absolutely, positively must figure out what he did, how it blew up in his face, and why the powers that be, so to speak, have dragged him back into the thick of things. All this intrigue is a big part of the story. Trouble is, I'm not that good at intrigue.

Husband-critter is better at twisty plot stuff. Me thinks it's time I sat down with him and did some brainstorming.

The problem with being a pantser...

TerriOsburn said...

You went directly to the master, Janga. I'd read that before but just read it again and now I'm waving my fist in the air yelling, "You tell 'em!!"

Since you mention epilogues, do you think those take away from the ending? I mean, if the ending is perfect, why do you need the epilogue? Not that I'm knocking them, I'm considering writing one. LOL! But that question just popped in my head so thought I'd ask.

TerriOsburn said...

Chance - You need to cut yourself some slack. You had pre-conference brain then conference brain then post-conference brain. Let the brain recover!

Take the pressure off. The story will come to you. It always does and then you fly to the end churning out 5K words day. (That's more annoying, I might add.)

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - I can only imagine how tough intrigue would be for a pantser. That's not the kind of thing you can make up on the fly. Would it totally throw you off to sit down and just plot out that part of the plot? Just with a pen and notebook maybe?

The Husband critter thing is cracking me up. Does he know you call him that? LOL! I'm guessing yes and likely doesn't mind.

Maureen said...

I have a brain?

P. Kirby said...

The thing is, even though I get bored with stories that get into too much emotional stuff, I often write those parts first. Probably because I'm like a "method writer," I inhabit my characters and feel what they feel. The bits that really interest me, the plot twists, however, require more planning. So I start by writing the parts that let me get to know the characters, and then....plan (UGH) the rest. (I need to devise a way to borrow J.K. Rowling's [an excellent plotter] brain for a few days.)

I think my guy would actually prefer husband critter to DH.

TerriOsburn said...

Sure. Not that I can tell you where it is on any given day...

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - I happen to love brainstorming. Just saying. If you want a sounding board, you know where to find me.

P. Kirby said...

Terri. Thanks. Actually, I really may take you up on that. Other than my h-critter, I don't have a lot of folks to throw my wonky ideas at--SPLAT!

Oh, and likewise. I like talking stories and I'm told I'm a good beta reader--honest but very diplomatic.

:)

Maureen said...

It's funny, Pat. I generally do it the other way. Write the 'adventure' and find the emotional journey as I go along. I have that idea of the emotional arc, but it's generally less in focus than the adventure complications.

Even with this stalled story, I know how the adventure is played out, the complications, etc. It's the emotional stuff where I knew the general course...then I threw so much at it...I got tangled into a snarl.

TerriOsburn said...

I'm getting more used to wonky ideas after dealing with Chance for so long. :) Throw them my way!

Honest but very diplomatic. Seems like a nice combination. I judged a contest entry last week and I struggled to balance those two traits. It wasn't easy. I sure hope I didn't do harm to the writer.

TerriOsburn said...

I'm the opposite of both of you. Mine is all emotion and angst. And sarcasm, of course. Very little adventure and never intrigue. I should branch out.

MsHellion said...

I love epilogues. I prefer them. I want that little reassurance that five years later one of them hasn't dumped the other...or died in childbirth. I have trust issues.

I have to second the BEWITCHING. When his brother says, "I hear seals!"--I just crack up. Just a sweet and magical book from beginning to end.

MsHellion said...

I think Husband Critter is a perfect nickname. Lots better than pretty much anything I would pick.

What?

Anonymous said...

When I started writing, I knew some of the big scenes, so I wrote those, then went back and filled in between.
I know that both Drake and Sarah are going to have to re-evaluate some things that each of them have long held as truths. He will get their first, but then he'll need to convince her. While avoiding an ex who has decided she'd like to be a duchess.

Di R

TerriOsburn said...

Those Duchess wanna-bes can be a real pain in the peerage backside. Do you know how you're going to get rid of her? Or does she eventually get her own story?

I've thought about writing out of order like that, but my brain rebels at the notion.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Sorry I'm late...

You mean I'm supposed to know more than just "they live happily ever after?" :) LOL.

I had the black moment in mind when I was writing but really had no idea how things would fall out after that. Totally panster'd that.

Sooooooo I do have some news....I've submitted my MS to Harlequin's Fast Track Submission and ...ta da....I've completed my first draft! I have major editing to do and need to add in a scene or two, but I have written The End!

Can't believe I've submitted with the damn thing actually done. Fast tracks can actually be only 1 chapter if you have it so I've submitted before but never with the thing done.

THE END! WAHOO!

Maureen said...

Big congrats to Scape! Whoohoo! We need a drink for this accomplishment! The Barnacle!

What would you like in it, Scape!

So proud of you! ;-)

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Thank you Chance - and you helped so much with nudges this weekend! Without you and Terri it might have taken me forever to get to the end. Thank you!

Let's see - I'm feeling like a whiskey today - Jameson if you got it. :)

Maureen said...

Fer sheer stick-to-itness...the Barnacle! Jameson on the rocks!

TerriOsburn said...

Whoohooo!!!!! This calls for drinks all around. WTG, Scape! (Sorry, I was driving home from work and had to make a couple stops.)

Jameson? That's solid stuff. Especially for a Monday. I'll try to keep up. LOL!