Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Sticking the landing

Here’s a post at Book View Cafe by Brenda Clough: Flying by the seat of your pants: sticking the landing.

The big pitfall of planless writing is that the story will go nowhere.The questing party will wander around the mines of Moria in the dark and never get out. The hobbits forget about the One Ring and become involved in the court politics of Gondor. Aragorn and Arwen hop into bed and suddenly the novel becomes 50 Shades of Grey. Saruman gets involved with flamewars on 4-chan and doesn’t imprison Gandalf in Orthanc.

Okay, so that thing about 4-chan is funny.

Anyway, sure, I guess. I don’t think I’ve ever really found the ending that difficult . . . okay, maybe once or twice . . . all right, fine, I do have a difficult WIP right now that’s a real bear about the ending. But usually it’s the middle that’s the problem, not the ending. The denouement is my favorite part, generally. I guess I often do have a scene or two from close to the end in mind; it’s how to get there that’s sometimes the problem.

However, this is a really good point: Figure out what the theme of the work is, what it’s really about, and start driving everything towards that theme. 

Maybe this advice about figuring out the theme and driving to it will finally give me the epiphany I need to get my own WIP moving properly toward the end.

In the meantime, what are some novels where the owner just nailed the ending? That is difficult to do and many, many otherwise excellent stories suffer from a not-great ending. Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood comes to mind, and also Spindle’s End. Oh, hey, Stephen King’s It is a really famous example of this exact problem.

Other stories don’t feel complete; they don’t feel like they have ended at all. GGK’s Under Heaven has that long epilogue because it basically doesn’t have a proper ending at the right place, imo. Patricia McKillip’s Cygnet duology would probably be much, much better if it were a trilogy.

But who’s done it right? Let me see . . .

Okay —

a) Martha Wells in The Fall of Ile-Rien. This is the one of hers that I think has the best ending.

b) Endings are not always McKillip’s strong point, but she absolutely nailed it with The Book of Atrix Wolfe.

c) LMB’s The Curse of Chalion has an excellent ending.

d) MWT’s The Queen of Attolia has a great ending.

What are some others?

I think I do pretty decent endings, by and large. I especially like the ending of Land of Burning Sands. I think that’s a happy ending without seeming pat. Oh, and yes, I really like the ending of Door Into Light — that ending is why I wrote the whole thing.

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2 Comments Sticking the landing

  1. rilkefan

    Just finished reading the excellent _Lady of Dreams_ by Tasmanian (and Korean-interested, and I imagine Heyer-influenced) author W.R. Gingell. I greatly enjoyed the book, a cleverly-constructed comedy of manners with some fantasy or perhaps magical realism elements, but had the sense that all the plot was used up (and it’s a quite languid plot at that, for thematic reasons) about 80% of the way through – but she was only arranging to floor the pedal. Gingell’s series The City Between is also well worth checking out, one of the best urban fantasy series going as far as I can tell, though not as literarily ambitious as the above.

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