Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings for me are probably the hardest thing I have to write.  I can generally pull through a sagging middle and I know exactly how the story is going to end, but those all-important beginnings love to torture me.

And, although, my betas and crit partners would probably argue that’s not true, it’s only because I’ve done all the hardwork before I’ve even put pen to paper—or in my case fingers to keyboard.
By the time I finally start writing, I’ve already run through a hundred or more different scenes in my head. 

But let me back track just a bit.  Whenever I write a story, I “listen” for the characters.  I genuinely feel it is they that is telling me the story, and not the other way around.

And so I keep listening for that all so special voice who’s begging for their story to be told.  When that happens, I usually “hear” just the first line and that line will haunt me until I write it down.

Sometimes, that’s all I’ll hear and then the character fades off into the background, only to re-emerge in certain places and leave me to fill in the blanks.  With RENEGADE, however, that wasn’t the case.  Evelyn was extremely pushy and LOUD. 

She wanted her story told and she wanted it told NOW. LOL.  In contrast though, she was also probably the hardest character I’ve ever written to date, but she’s also the most interesting.

And now onto endings.  My favorite topic (just about).  You can’t have a beginning without an end.  In my mind they’re actually more important than the beginning.  Especially if the book is part of a series. 

You want to wrap the story enough to offer the reader closure, but leave them wanting more.  And sometimes that’s a harder balance than coming up with something that intrigues the reader enough to want to read the book in the first place.

Personally I don’t like cliff-hangar endings.  I want to read more of a series because I’ve fallen in love with the characters and want to see what happens next, not because I need to make sure the characters made it out of whatever catastrophe their author left them in (I’m looking at you Lisa Desrochers, Andrea Cremer, and Rachel Hawkins—Ugh! You guys sure know how leave a reader hanging don’t you.  LOL. <3)

 That, being said, I’ve written a few myself and I can definitely see a value to them.  But, and this is a big, but for me. When I write a story, I like to see that the major conflict for the story has been resolved in the book. 

Take HUNGER GAMES for instance as that’s the perfect example of a series with cliff hangar endings, but each book has most of the dangling strings tied up.  If you haven’t read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but basically each book had one MAJOR conflict that ended (in the first book the actual Hunger Games), offering closure for the reader, while also moving the story along toward the series story (the overarching plot).

I also like this way of ending a story because if something happens and a story series gets cancelled for whatever reason (I know that’s rare, but it does happen), the book has given the reader enough closure that they aren’t completely pissed off it doesn’t continue.

J.A. Souders is the author of RENEGADE a YA dystopian that takes place in an underwater utopian society, coming Fall 2012 from Tor Teen.  For more information visit her blog or website.

And no she's not going to tell you if RENEGADE has a cliff hangar ending or not.  You're just going to have to figure that out for yourself.  ; )


  1. Girl, if beginnings are hard for you, I'd love to see what's easy. Seriously, people when you read the opening of RENEGADE your mouths are going to hang open.

    *Brags shamelessly* Yeah, that's right, I've read it.

    - Liz

  2. Cliff hanger endings are annoying to me, too. And it seems like many books now (The Hunger Games and Hex Hall being big examples of this), the first book has good closure, but then the second book feels free to leave you (or really, the main character) completely hanging. (And, actually, since I just read Original Sin, Personal Demons did that, too.) What's up with that?