Pop some pills, down a fifth of gin, or mainline some caffeine because you are about to endure another dose of Bread Crumbs from the Void! Nothing says “love” like dependency and I am sure you have all been experiencing the withdrawals associated with the absence of this column. You can now ditch those DT’s and bouts of violent projectile vomiting as I am back today to remove the symptoms, but not the cause.
Irritants abound in the world today. Electronic Dance Music. The anti-vaxxer movement. Right-wing talk radio. People who say, “Hella”. It is unfortunate that these hemorrhoids in the rectum of life exist, yet there is little you or I can do to quell the overwhelming shit stream they produce. Social media has dulled comprehension and numbed rationale. Intelligent and civil discourse unfortunately does not exist in this day and age. Specifically when rallying against those who are neither civil nor intelligent.
So instead of wasting your life focusing on indomitable vexations, you could be zeroing in on your own idiosyncrasies which frustrate the piss out of those around you. One such glitch with your own internal programming which you are more than capable of rectifying is that of producing repugnantly unsatisfactory endings to stories. Precious few writing gaffes are more egregious, more abhorrent than concluding what may be an otherwise decent yarn with a fucking defective, anemic conclusion.
I want to tell you all that you are better than delivering flaccid anticlimactic drivel, but I am not certain you are. Only you can provide evidence of your ability to rise above the undulating masses of austere consummations. If you require a bit of a nudge in the right direction, here are a few quick and dirty tricks regarding endings I have acquired along my journey.
Overwrought, convoluted plots and characters will never serve to showcase your mastery of the storytelling medium. This is merely an Amsterdam sex shop window display of your ineptitude.
You will do well to remember that clarity of plot and persona is your main objective. To put this in perspective, the aggregate Barnes and Noble bottom-feeder is obtuse and vapid. Readers are seeking an escape, not a calculus equation. When they reach the finish line after traversing through your murky and tedious wordplay swamp they want nothing more than to see the familiar lights of the base camp. A smattering of components from throughout the slog must be brought full circle. If you weave too intricate and elaborate of a web you will simply leave your audience stranded with soiled god-damn chonies and vulnerable to the elements.
I am not implying you should shy away from constructing a complex world. I am strongly suggesting you refrain from introducing a plethora of secondary characters, specifically if their divergent storylines do not commence until half or three quarters of the way through your main narrative. An impressive roster of side stories will only set you up for failure when attempting to land that overstuffed plane. Tom Robbins comes to mind. The man is an incredible, inimitable stylist to be certain, but by the end of his novels he is juggling so many different items that he simply must let every expendable bowling pin, chainsaw, hatchet, etc. drop with palpable dissonance.
Keep it simple and give the reader one or two entities he or she can root for.
Personally I am a sucker for ambiguous endings. The notion that every story must conclude with a perfectly sculpted resolution, wrapped in a god-damn glittery bow sends me through the roof. Life is not an impeccable, virgin byway on which to travel. It is fraught with potholes, uneven pavement, roadkill, hookers, and sometimes even black ice. This is to say throughout the course of your existence you will encounter incalculable obstacles. When said impediments have been overcome you may sustain an overwhelming — if fleeting — euphoria, knowing full well there will be another disaster just around the bend.
So it would stand to reason that sculpting an honest, tangible character would require the same foresight and space for equivocalness following the denouement of your saga.
To achieve this, answer only the questions which were raised along your characters path. Leave the fate of your hero or anti-hero to the conjecture of your audience. Reader theories will abound regardless so they do not require every ignominious detail of the remainder of the characters’ lives spelled out in triumphant, albeit painfully fucking dull, glory. ‘Happily ever after’ is a nothing more than a bullshit default reserved for creators with a monumental lack of imagination.
Action is a compelling, and at times useful, device. If you are using it as a crutch though, hedging your bets on swagger over substance you have already shot yourself in the foot. Personality, not plot, is the nitrous which should propel your vehicle. If your character is less engaging in the quiet moments where life actually happens then you have not engineered a functional character.
Life is suffused and impregnated with conflict. It is that specific struggle which you present which will maintain your rapt audience. Whether you intend for the principal to be adored or reviled, they must have a magnetism which inspires the patrons of your pages to see said conflict through to the bitter end. Such loyalty is not procured via car chases or hand-to-hand combat. Devotion to a character is assured only through the seductive allure of the personality you manifest and capture between the covers.
Infatuation or odium. Your brainchild must elicit one or the other. Apathy will only cause a reader to surrender by page twenty and leave a one to two star review when you self-publish on Amazon.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” Of course this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I believe that in writing — if not in reality — all actions are the result of desire.
Now, if that comes across as tawdry allow me to explain. You endure a day job to earn money. You earn money so you can afford your pathetic studio apartment. You wish to keep your pathetic studio apartment so you do not have to fuck your one night stands behind the Red Lobster’s dumpster any longer. You do not venture to fuck your one night stands behind the Red Lobster’s dumpster any longer to eschew getting crabs… And so on, and so forth.
All actions are the result of desire.
You can’t always get what you want though and no one on this godforsaken orb has every single one of their wishes fulfilled. With every tribulation, defeat, affliction, and miscarriage there is always something to be extracted from the experience. In the event your protagonist does not outwardly succeed in his/her intended goal they should be altered in some way by the end of your sordid tale, be it a new freckle or deciding on a Brazilian instead of a landing strip. The most exasperating reading experiences are those in which the leads never change (I am looking at you, Bukowski).
Give your readers a reason to finish your book.
As always, if you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, insults, or declarations of lust.
Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks with another thrilling edition of hard-nosed reality for you big-talkers and wannabes. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.
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