Monday, April 11, 2011

Three steps to finding alternate endings that work

Many of our posts here relate best to novels and novel writing. This post is for our friends who write short fiction.

Science Fiction author Nancy Kress shared an interesting sequence of blog posts earlier this year revealing the fascinating process a short story can take from the inception of the original idea through to final publication. A seat-of-the-pants author, Nancy started with a dry spell, forged through with passion, but found herself 2/3s of the way through the story and in need of an alternate ending. These are three steps she used to work around a wall in her writing to successfully complete and sell the story.

1) Go back to the last place you're excited about the story (in this case, 2/3 of the way through) and toss out everything after that.

2) Think of a different, but still logical, way for a secondary character to act. Secondary characters are, by definition, not as completely delineated as the point-of-view character and so the author has some wiggle room as to how they might behave. Change something major here.

3) Return to your protagonist -- how does he react to this change of behavior in someone important to him? If nothing sparks for you, try different behavior from the secondary character, or perhaps a different character.

How have you pushed through and finished a story that was giving you fits?
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  1. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been stuck on a short story for ages now, and I had already determined to do number one on this list, but I had not thought of pulling in a secondary character to turn the story. But I've just done so...and I am unstuck!!!!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hey, Johne this is a great post. Usually I set it all aside and stress over it! This is terrific advice.

  3. I don't write short fiction, but I think these points can apply even to longer pieces. Good thoughts, Johne.

  4. I'm currently in the process of finding an alternate beginning for my WIP. Approached just a little differently, these points offer insight into that as well.

  5. Changing the beginning of a story as well after some advice from a workshop. I agree with Weiland, these tips will apply at some level (eg. Deleting/majorly revising everything up to the point where it gets interesting). Thanks!

  6. Very creative way to alter a story without major revisions. Nice post.

  7. I'm stuck in the middle of a short story as well, and I've been trying to convince myself to do something similar to #1. A scene just doesn't fit, but I had a hard time deciding to scrap it because it did have some awfully good lines. :)

  8. This is good advice for life as well. In a rut? Remember the last time you were passionate and excited about life and take it from there...