Thursday, November 30, 2006

The bit before 'The End'...

Like the rest of the romance-reading world I followed Julie Cohen's first page challenge with great interest-- and, given that book number 2 is progressing at roughly the same place as an arthritic snail, not a little envy too. The contributions from authors right across the fictional board were enlightening and entertaining, and many of them are such good examples of best practise that they sent me scuttling back to completely re-write the opening chapter of book 2 (about 3,287 times, actually, but that's a whole different post. And not a happy one. It involves loud music, half a box of tissues, copious post-it notes and seventeen squillion calories worth of chocolate-covered Brazil nuts.)

I don't recall having nearly so much trouble with the opening chapter of book 1 (did I mention that it's called The Italian's Defiant Mistress and is coming out in July 2007? No? Oh, well, it's called The Italian's Defiant Mistress and it's coming out in July 2007...). I do, however, remember very distinctly the struggle I had coming up with a suitable finish. Obviously I had a clear vision of how the book would end in plot terms, but I'd spent so long living with the characters and following them on every step of their journey that actually choosing the right words with which to leave them was impossible.

I didn't want something too sudden, too final, as I wanted to give the impression of a beginning within an ending. It also had to have an air of authority about it, to make the reader feel satisfied that a natural conclusion had been reached, and above all it had to convey the new relationship that had blossomed between the hero and heroine, while still remaining absolutely in line with both of their characters. (In other words there was no way I was going to be able to have the hero say anything remotely sentimental. He's spent the whole book struggling to be open about his feelings-- even to himself-- and although he's come a long way and overcome lots of those demons he's nowhere near the stage of being able to use the word 'soul'. Or at least not without sounding sarcastic.)

I wrote the final version of the last chapter and epilogue at the last possible moment before submitting the ms, which meant that by the time I received the proofs to check I couldn't actually remember exactly how it had finished. I was dead keen to read through to the end straight away and refresh my memory, but as I turned the last page I do believe I made the kind of outraged, disbelieving squeal that my children utter when they open the biscuit tin and find it empty.

I'd failed. That indefinably conclusive air that I'd striven so hard to achieve was so lacking. I could have cried-- which isn't usually a bad response at the end of a romance, but in this case was definitely not for the right reasons.

And then I found the last page, which, in the general squalor and chaos of Grey Towers, had become separated from the rest (and slightly besmirched with jam in the process). I breathed a huge sigh of relief. On it was typed...

And he did.


... and those four words made a world of difference to my perception of the whole, entire book.

So, what are your favourite final lines from a book, and how did you solve the finishing dilemma in your own writing? From where I am (ie still marooned in the fog of the first 3 chapters) it's a problem I'm longing to be in a position to tackle!



Blogger Amanda Ashby said...

I must say that I have a super cute ending for Halo (I know, I'm sad!), but my all time favourite ending is from A Tale of Two Cities.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known

6:49 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

That's a tough question, India! (Not to mention an even worse technical problem, ending a book properly, without rushing it!) No doubt most of us are combing through our favourite books looking for the perfect ending to write about.

How about Milan Kundera's The Incredible Lightness of Being. I'm thinking more of the movie actually than the book. The image of Tomas and Tereza driving blissfully down the road, happy, laughing, utterly content with the world, the viewer/reader all the while knowing that life will change in an much better than how Kundera might have ended the story...or was it the director? Did anyone out there actually read the book?

[Eva jots a note to herself: "Check last chapter of novel when you get home from work, you numbskull!"]

6:08 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Oops...that's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Incredible! I really ought to do my homework.

6:10 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

He did it twice? I thought you were writing romance, India, not erotica.

As for my favourite ending, it has to be the one I relate to most:
'This writing business - pencils and what-not - is overrated. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.'
(from: 'Eeyore's gloomy Little Instruction Book')

8:21 pm  
Anonymous Sharon J said...

Bloody intriguing, that ending, India. Roll on July, that's all I can say, you drip feeding devil :-)

No idea what my fav ending is. I really can't remember one and I'm too lazy to go hunting through books. When it comes to my own endings I usually have somebody bladder explode or something. Oh... sorry, that was when I was 14!

12:45 am  

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