Please help me welcome Matt Campbell, a very talented, fantasy author who just happens to be published by Wild Child Publishing. His current book, Spirit Summoner (The Chosen of the Light: Book One), is available in both eBook and print formats. The second in the series is in editing and will be released later this year.
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In Stephen King’s book, The Wastelands, the character Eddie struggles to carve a key from a piece of ash. This key will possibly transport him to another world, a world that holds great importance for his future and those with whom he travels. He has a perfect vision of the key, but he still has to make it. Even when he thinks he has it, when it comes time to open the door, the key requires one last shave. A miniscule ribbon of ash falls, and finally, the key is complete, as is the door to the other world.
What King has written in this story, is a perfect analogy of what it means to be a writer. Writing is full of tense moments. Even when you know what you want to write, constructing your words into stories often has weight to it, a weight you must balance with care. Writing without a clear focus has tension all its own because you may end up with something completely unusable in the end. Dialogue, plotting, focus… all of these things can tie a writer up into knots, but none of these compares to those two final words: The End.
Even though there may be more work ahead, the ending of your story carries a special kind of weight. Like the key in Stephen King’s story, if it doesn’t fit properly, the door to the next world will not open. All your care and skill might be wasted, and if you carve away too much, there’s no way to get back what you lost. As I head into the final chapters of the last book in my series, I’m feeling that weight crushing down on me once more. Not only am I ending a book, I’m ending a series of books, and that kind of pressure requires some special attention.
As a long time plotter, note taking is essential. Especially when I’m narrowing in on the chapters of a story, I like to know a general idea of what’s going to happen. All of this culminates in the ending of the story, and if I don’t know the direction that’s going to take, when I do find myself at the end, it becomes a swamp threatening to suck in my story and me, threatening to drown us both. Maybe pantsers have it easier, although I can’t imagine how. Perhaps a pantser’s memory is such that they can pull in all the little threads to their story by the end.
A Clear Picture
Keeping in mind a clear picture of the end is helpful, though not necessary. Like using notes to guide you to the end of a story, having a focused idea of the shape you want your ending to take is helpful. Oftentimes, telling the story becomes second nature to an author. As the story wraps around us, becoming our breath, an extension of our being, we lose sight of the end, and when the end finally arrives, it may turn out that what we originally planned no longer fits.
Be Ready for Anything
Despite any amount of planning, you may or may not do, be prepared for the fluidity of storytelling. Even the best plotters out there might come to the end and realize some key factor that should’ve been placed long ago. On the other side of this philosophy, don’t be afraid to let unplanned changes happen. As the end approaches, some new character trait my surface in one of your characters, something that fits with the tension. Don’t be afraid to let your characters come to terms with their own ending.
I don’t write only for the ending of the story, but I do write to tell a story. The end doesn’t work unless the rest of the story works, and vice versa. Keep your eye on the prize—a complete and satisfying story.
Matt Campbell is the author of Spirit Summoner (The Chosen of the Light: Book One). He has been writing fantasy for over 15 years, and is a life-long fan of the genre. You can check out more of his work at his blog and his website.