When it comes to ending or concluding a short story I often get a bit stuck. Usually because it means letting the characters go and prance in their narrative world without me playing God with my computer or pen any longer. So often my short stories are not finished, or they are the could-be-a-novel-if-i-could-be-bothered types of pieces.
Last year I told one of my tutors that I struggled to write endings. She blinked one, then twice and then offered me this advice:
“Shannon, writing stories is like getting into a pool. You can’t stay in the pool swimming around aimiously. You eventually have to get out the pool. You get what I’m saying?”
I nodded, but I really had no idea what she meant. Could the swimming pool be a metaphor for the meaning of life, and here I was going all blue and wrinkly in the depths of personal despair? To seek enlightenment all I must do was climb up the pool steps! That was it! Nope, on second thoughts, it probably wasn’t.
But I wasn’t doomed. Here I am a year later and a marvellous thing has happened! I submitted a short story for a competition. Yup, its complete with a twist and an ending that I’m quite satisfied with, finally I was able to leave the characters alone. I came through with the goods and splish-splashed out of the pool in true slow-motion Baywatch style (without the massive Pamela Anderson boobs).
To learn how to write, one must read, alot. In fact reading is not enough, consuming and gorging on short stories, poetry, opinion pieces, columns, novels and literature will be a good starting point. Even though I have written short stories since I was seven or eight I had never really read short stories til I started university. One of my favourites is Cate Kennedy’s stories “Dark Roots,” she’s a marvel of a writer. Reading short story writers has taught me something that really cancels out the metaphoric bullshit:
Write, edit and write. But in the end, you’ve got to let go.