Changing the Endings of Stories

A few months ago I submitted a short story to my critique group. A sorrowful tale, really, about a simple man alone in his house waiting for his family to return home. While everyone agreed they liked the story and successfully pointed and laughed as they ripped out my had-s, was-s, started to-s, and look-s, the majority of the group also pointed my attention to a plot element I placed in the center of the story. This detail, they said, held my ending. But how could that be, obviously it showed itself in the center of the story?

Nope. Sorry, folks. The group followed their gut and knew when the story really hit home with them. I know that this is true because a critique group (and I hope you have one) is an entity all on its own and has the ears of a reader and the mind of a writer. If they don't tell you to fix something now, then your future readers will put your work down faster than middle school boys put down each other's moms.

After looking over the story I was able to pull the information from the middle, that bit of character revelation I spilled too early, and work it into the ending. Now, that all sounds really easy, but it wasn't. I had to find a way to transition that middle/end into the end/end, and where I did the middlectomy there was a gaping hole in the story that needed to be smoothed. It took a lot of work, and the whole time I wanted to make sure the tone of the story remained intact.

My challenge for you this week, therefore, is to take that story -- the one you feel has potential but can't seem to put your finger on the problem -- and see if your ending isn't lurking further ahead. The trick here is that you have to be able to see your "complete" story as pieces of a whole, like a skeleton's ribcage working building along that uniting spine. If a rib or two is out of place, you need to both be able to recognize it and fix it. X-ray technician and surgeon in one. That's your job as the designated writer. Feel the story with your gut and see where you relate to the character the most. That just might be your finale. Good luck!

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