Today’s challenge is to write about whatever’s on my mind. That happens to be endings and beginnings. I know that it makes logical sense to put beginnings first in that series, but in some ways, I think endings are easier, and so they come first.
Endings can be brutal. They can absolutely gut a person. They can be beautiful. They can leave the door open for the future. Endings are wonderful, terrible things. Surprise endings can be nice, or they can be nasty. Endings can leave a person feeling fulfilled or empty inside. I’m talking about two kinds of endings here – book endings, and real-life endings. (Incidentally, the word “endings” is starting to sound funny in my head, I’ve used it so much.) Endings bring about an opportunity for new beginnings, of course, but on their own, endings can be a relief or can be impossibly difficult. Sometimes we don’t want to let go, and we fight to keep things from ending. Sometimes things don’t want to let go of us, and we have to fight to move on.
My favorite book is like this. The ending wasn’t a surprise – it was an inevitable conclusion, and the book was a slow march toward it. But that didn’t make the ending any less gutting. It still brings me to tears, even after multiple readings. In fact, it’s been too long since I’ve read that book, and just thinking about how it ends makes me want to read it again.
Writing endings is difficult for me. It’s not that I can’t think of a good ending (usually, I can), it’s that I don’t want to let go. I never like to leave a character behind, particularly if there’s more story to tell (and unless the character dies, it feels like there’s always more story to tell). Maybe one day I’ll meet a character who lets me go, but until then, I’ll always wonder what else I can do with the ones I already know.
Beginnings are tough in their own way. They’re scary. Terrifying, in fact. I hate beginnings. Beginnings are like stepping off of a precipice into the unknown, and praying that something, someone, will catch you while you fall. Beginnings can be tied to endings, of course, but typically, they come on their own. I like to skip to the middle. There’s a book I adore that I’ve read so many times that I no longer read the beginning. I just skip to a random chapter in the late beginning/early middle of the book, so I can avoid the heartache of the back story.
In relationships, I find beginnings equally hard. Beginnings can be hot – passionate and thrilling – but they similarly can be awkward, uncertain, and fumbling. Some people enjoy that awkwardness. I do not.
I hate writing beginnings, too. That fumbling awkwardness always comes around in my first draft beginnings. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy flash fiction so much. I don’t have time to screw up a beginning, just march right on to the middle and the end, because I only have 500 words to do it right. I’m currently toying with an office romance story and the beginning just isn’t coming to me. One technique I use to get past this is to write a middle first – a sex scene between the two characters, typically – just to get a feel for who they are, and how they fit together. This can help drive my beginning.
Endings can be hard; beginnings can be hard. Nothing in life is easy. We just keep trucking the best we can.