Endings

I'm not going to go into a diatribe about the difficulty of writing really good endings.  I will say that perhaps the first great ending of a story I ever really noticed was Ann Beattie's "The Burning House."  Go track it down, if you've never read it.

My current obsession with endings has manifested itself in two ways: a bizarre new fascination with things that have finished and a desire to use the few good endings I've ever written for new stories.

The most recent example of the former is all the time I've spent re-watching the recently ended Gossip Girl television show (I will spare you from going into further details on that).  But it started before that.  I've been going through this period of reading complete comic book story arcs, things as ridiculous as the Spider-man Clone Saga and Batman: Knightfall.  I really the enjoy the idea of being able to read a complete work and form an opinion based upon the whole.  I also like to think about the important moments where the story went wrong, or the moments where it went very right, and what it all meant by the end.

To my mind, I've probably written less than half a dozen good endings.  I think the vast majority of them are okay.  I think the entire final chapter of "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At" is some of the best writing I've ever produced.  I like the end of "Unrequited," but it's been so long since I read it, I'm not sure if the writing still holds up.  The ending of "Gateway Drug" is probably too cute for its own good and the ending of "Weight," in hindsight, is ordinary.

I currently have two endings that I think are right up there with the best work I've ever done.  I actually got complimented on one of them, when it was attached to a short story that really wasn't good enough to have such a solid ending.  I've mostly left it alone over the years, instead trying to salvage the other one, which is attached to a short story that at least has the potential to be worthy of its ending.

I've come to realize that the latter one might actually work on its own as a short short.  I've never really written a short short before, so I find this pretty exciting, and isn't that what we want from our writing?  It also alleviates the pressure of having to improve the story that comes before it so that it's even remotely close to the quality of the ending.

The former one is the less problematic of the two, if only because it's a fairly universal ending.  It's a romantic ending, about a man realizing that the woman he's been sleeping with is actually more than that.  Basically, it lent itself to a story about girls and denial and that kind of thing, which is right in my wheelhouse.

Here's the weird thing: I attached the ending to a new short story that takes place during the same time in which I wrote the aforementioned ending.  Okay, I know that sounds like post-modernism run amok, but, trust me, it makes sense.  But I wrote this story now, and it's basically a story of "me" being with some girl who isn't my wife (although she's not technically anyone at all, since it's a complete work of fiction).  That's a little weird.  I don't think I've ever given her anything to read before that involved a love interest that wasn't, on some level, her.

It's also bizarre because I'm going back to a certain time of my life and writing about it from the future, when the ending I'm building this story around was written at that time.  The question now is whether my obvious hindsight will be obvious to the reader.

Great endings are hard to come by, so I have to take advantage of them when they come along.