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Lesson 19--A Great Conclusion

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby CatLin » Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:49 am

Barb, the best advice I ever got here as a beginner was, after I finished my story, lop off the first paragraph and the last paragraph. Completely discard them.

It was scary, but I was amazed at the difference it made!
Catrina Bradley
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"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (The Message)

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Postby glorybee » Mon Nov 29, 2010 5:20 am

Ms. Barbie wrote:I do have a thought / questions.
I believe I am stuck in the formats of essays and research papers, and it is engrained in me to summarize at the end of each paper. That mostly happens when I try to do devotionals or describing events.

So the questions are- I don't need to summarize everything?
Does the concept of the prompt word need to be in the conclusion?


I really don't know why I keep at writing- I am not compelled to write like everyone else is and it is disheartening that I just can't seem to "get it".


1. Nope, you don't need to summarize everything in fiction.
2. Nope, the concept doesn't need to be in the conclusion

and a question for you:

Is writing fun for you? That's as good a reason as any to keep doing it. Or to try new things. Or to discover new things about yourself. Or to be an encourager to others through your words. Or to praise God in black and white.

Don't be disheartened! You're loved here at FaithWriters!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Verna » Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:37 am

Thanks for teaching again, Jan. I wondered when I wrote the ending to this poem if it was a little too obvious all the way through to the reader. I put a few verses to show what was going on before the end.

Miranda Ant had slept all day,
Which made the others mad.
Said Andrew Ant, “I’m ‘shamed of you;
Your laziness is sad.”

Amanda Ant had words for her
About the tasks she’d shirk.
She said, “It’s up to all of us
When it is time to work.”
...
When Daniel Ant saw her abed,
He couldn’t understand
Why she was not out pushing dirt
Beneath the bulging land.
...

And then Cassandra Ant came close
And shooed them all away.
“Can you not tell she’s dead,” she said,
“And been that way all day?”
Verna

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...
Proverb 17:22

Facebook author page: Verna Cole Mitchell
http://www.magnificomanuscripts.com/

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Postby glorybee » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:26 pm

Verna, this is great! I remember this poem, and how much I loved the assonance of all the ants' names.

Since this poem tells a story, many of the same suggestions above apply. In this case, you gave it w very unexpected twist, leaving the reader with a really fun sense of "oooh, you got me!"

I'm giving some more thought this week to good ways to end non-story poems...if you have any thoughts on that, I'd welcome them before I write the next lesson!
Jan Ackerson

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An Ending for a Detective Mystery

Postby OldManRivers » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:01 pm

Jan,

I have written a series of detective novels involving a character, Lt. Ian MacKenzie. This is the ending of one of those novels, Miss Yellow Roses (each novel involves a color and flowers in the title). This is the only novel that I used this summation technique.

The following week, we got word of the apparent suicide of Mr. James E. Blake, aka Jacob Blair. In his pocket, a type-written confession about the killing of Mick Flanagan and Molly O'Hara. He jumped off a bridge and drowned one late night. And wouldn't you know it, no witnesses. The body washed up under the docks.

The murder of Miss Yellow Roses eventually went into the cold case file, not officially closed but my notes stated the thought that there were good indications that the deceased Mr. Blake's confession probably had some credibility. Motive? Suspicions were that Buster Blake had an old score to settle with Wild Bill O'Hara, possibly an old debt that he owed a mob family in Jersey.

Delores worked for Mr. Keller until the old man keeled over with a heart attack. She moved to Washington and landed a quality job as the Office Manager for a senior senator from Pennsylvania.

Miss Lily moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Not long afterwards, maybe six months, Anne Brown moved to Providence as well. I never heard from them again, nor did anyone else I knew in Boston.

Teddy Brown remained a town drunk for many years, sustained by his family trust administered by the Brown & Keller law firm. Every now and then, I'd treat Teddy to lunch and every time I left thinking the same thought, what a waste.

It took nearly a year, but the Boston Globe finally broke the story about long time corruption in the Boston Police Department. I was called to testify at the trial. Both Galloway and Flanagan went to prison, sentenced to five years each. Both, in time, relocated to L.A. and rumors had it that they went together into a private investigation business specializing in divorce work.

Scarborough made Captain, probably due to all the headlines he received in breaking the O'Hara case and in blowing the whistle on Galloway. Bill did a mighty fine job, many believe he was the best Captain of Homicide the Department ever had.

O'Toole retired to Miami, Florida and worked for years as a school crossing guard.

The murderer of poor Miss Ming was never found. I always figured it was Flanagan, maybe with Galloway's involvement. But no one found any evidence that tied them to it and most folks wrote it off as it being Blake's doing with the help of some of his mob cronies from Jersey.

Mary continued to work with Big Shirley and I kept ordering Dutch apple pie. Once in awhile, Mary and I would go to the Franklin Zoo and watch the big cats pace back and forth and the monkeys swing from the ropes. Sometimes we would buy our tickets from Mrs. Brown who would remind us that her husband was a lawyer in a big downtown law firm.
Last edited by OldManRivers on Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
May God's gentle grace be with you.

Jim McWhinnie

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Postby pheeweed » Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:06 pm

I've looked over my best challenge entries and haven't found any endings that are really good. I don't think I make most of the mistakes in your lesson, but they are all pretty vanilla. This one is from the topic See.

God of Lions

“Sir, it’s very strange. In every village, the people claim the attacks stopped when they began praying to a god they call the Sovereign Lord. But there are no high places.”

Ram Bail rubbed the back of his neck. “An invisible god. I don’t know how that can be, but as long as the people follow his ways, and the lions stay away, I don’t care. Let me know if the attacks return.”

As the general left, he turned back to the scribe who waited in the corner to give him a report about the harvest. Food was something he could touch and taste, something he could understand.


I think the last paragraph may be unnecessary or else it's not enough. Either way, I don't like it. Help.
Phee
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"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT

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Postby glorybee » Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:31 am

Jim, thanks for posting that selection.

I think a full-length novel is quite different from a short story, and without having read the enitre book (which looks really good), I can say that your summation seems to be a good fit for that genre. Thanks for pointing out the exception!

Do you have any examples of short stories to show us, or any thoughts on good endings in general?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:42 am

“Sir, it’s very strange. In every village, the people claim the attacks stopped when they began praying to a god they call the Sovereign Lord. But there are no high places.”

Ram Bail rubbed the back of his neck. “An invisible god. I don’t know how that can be, but as long as the people follow his ways, and the lions stay away, I don’t care. Let me know if the attacks return.”

As the general left, he turned back to the scribe who waited in the corner to give him a report about the harvest. Food was something he could touch and taste, something he could understand.


Phee, I went back and read the whole story. Cool story!

I agree that the last paragraph is a bit of a fizzle. What about something that really shows Ram Bail's frustration with his powerlessness over the situation, and his lack of understanding?

As the general left, Ram Bail stomped across the room. He stopped at the altar to Dagon and seized up the little god of bronze. With a loud shout, he flung the idol against the wall.

I dunno--that was just off the top of my head. What do you think?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby OldManRivers » Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:19 pm

As to endings -- I believe that they ought to elicit an "Amen" in the mind of the reader - a satisfying experience of completion. They should leave the reader with a few moments of reflective recollection.
May God's gentle grace be with you.

Jim McWhinnie

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Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:45 pm

I think it’s harder to talk about endings than beginnings because beginnings don’t need any context. I think my best ending would need a fairly long set up and would probably need to be longer than 100 words. So, I’ll just put a link to it here, and people can read as much or as little of the entry and/or of the ending as they choose.

I usually don’t get many comments on my entries because I rarely hint or throw bricks. This one seems to have gotten more than most and half of them specifically mentioned the ending. This entry was for “Taste.” Interestingly, two other people wrote on the same idea, food tasters. Both of their entries placed higher than mine, including the week’s winner. Given that my entry was weaker than the other two, but that the most common comment was about the ending; I’m guessing that the ending was seen as one of its stronger parts.
Steve
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things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Postby Verna » Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:04 am

Jan, I was thinking about several ways to end poems. One, used effectively, if not too often, is to repeat the first stanza. (Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee"). Another way is to reword or add to the idea in the first stanza. Another is to summarize the poem's idea. The last line might be repeated (Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening") used very sparingly. In a "listing" poem, the most important thought could be saved for last. Some additional suggestions might be: a personal reflection, a question, an invitation, an explanation, or a thought contrary to the preceding verses.

A special friend's most frequent comment to me is "Your ending fizzled." So, I guess I need some more ideas.
Verna

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...
Proverb 17:22

Facebook author page: Verna Cole Mitchell
http://www.magnificomanuscripts.com/

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Postby glorybee » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:43 pm

Steve, thanks for sharing that story! The 'twist' isn't really at the ending--more like about 3/4 of the way through--but I'd say that you really nailed the ending by putting sunch gracious words of forgiveness on the king's dying lips.

A lesser writer might have been tempted to take it one step farther, and to have the king's taster then fall on his knees in repentence. You ended it with grace--absolutely wonderful.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:44 pm

Verna, thanks for those insights. I plan to borrow them for my next lesson!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby pheeweed » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:48 pm

Hi Jan,
Thanks for your suggestion. Ending the story with action is probably a good idea, but I've been arguing with Ram Bail about what he would do. He wasn't really angry, but he was frustrated and didn't like the priest because of he represented a power RB couldn't control.

Anyway, here's an alternate ending I came up with. I don't know if it's any better, but I do think it's in character. And it doesn't really resolve anything, which you said is okay to do.

“Sir, it’s very strange. In every village, the people claim the attacks stopped when they began praying to a god they call the Sovereign Lord. But they have no high places with altars.”

Ram Bail scowled at the priest. “Just what we need, invisible altars to an invisible god.”

The priest lifted his head and stepped forward. “If they build high places, the lions will return. The Lord will not tolerate worship of other gods.”

“Then you must see to it that their worship satisfies him. Now go.” The Satrap turned away, caressing the hilt of the sword that hung at his side. “If only the priests and their religious squabbles were invisible too,” he muttered.


Thank you for all your help. Phee
Phee
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http://www.delightedmeditations.blogspot.com

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT

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Postby glorybee » Sat Dec 04, 2010 6:01 pm

Phee, I should have been more specific. Endings don't necessarily have to resolve every conflict--but they should provide the reader with an indication of what a likely resolution will be.

Open endings are less effective if the story just...stops, or if the reader is not given clear direction.

If you're a visual person, think of the story as a funnel. All of the plot elements--the characters, the rising action and the climax, the falling action, all those goodies are tossed into the funnel, and they're all being squeezed in the same direction. There's really only one possible direction for them all to go.

But a funnel's less effective if it's got several spouts--or if someone were to saw it off before the spout starts to narrow down, so that the stuff could come out in any number of places.

Clear as mud?
Jan Ackerson

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