Several of the manuscripts I’ve seen recently have one problem. They don’t go anywhere.
They set off in great style, with strong characters, a vivid setting, good dialogue and then they peter out to nothing.
The latest was a vivid reminiscence of a woman from a hot climate facing her first winter in Toronto. She is setting off to a very important appointment early in the morning of her first snowy, below zero day.
She is not dressed for the weather. She falls on the icy side-walk several times on the way to the bus stop. One thing after another delays her. Tension mounts – will she or won’t she make it to her appointment, which is the culmination of years of study.
Then comes the climax – she misses her bus and is left shivering on the icy city street. Does she make it to this important appointment?
She doesn’t say. The reader is left hanging.
Don’t do that to your readers; they need the satisfaction of closure.
Sometimes you start a story with no clear idea of where it will end. Often that will become clearer as you write. If it doesn’t, well, it’s just another of those great starts to file under “Writing Experience”.
Being a writer is a bit like being a guide on a bus tour. You are leading and showing and giving people an in-depth experience. A tour guide doesn’t just suddenly walk off and say, “Find your own way home.”
It was a new experience for me to feel a Toronto winter through the senses of this lady who believed that a light jacket would be warm enough for a below-zero day. but I needed more – not just an experience but a complete story.
( I had to know so I phoned her and asked.
“Oh, yes” she said. “I missed the appointment but they were kind enough to understand and they re-scheduled it for me.”)