Endings That Promise New Beginnings

Life is Story

I’ve been thinking about endings lately, what with it being Easter and all. If all of life is a story, than maybe endings in life aren’t so different than the ending of a good story. We all are facing our end–just some of us live with it closer before us than others. Often we choose to live as if death is not waiting, but maybe we lose something when we do that. My mother, in her final year, told me that knowing she only had limited time left meant she was free to dispense with all the “chaff” in life. No hanging on to anger, regret, guilt or shame. The specter of death helped clarify life; it helped her see what was important in life.

Tying up the loose threads

In stories, good endings tie up all the loose plot threads. I suppose this is true in life as well. They call it “getting your affairs in order.” Maybe it’s mending broken relationships, saying goodbyes, or checking things off your bucket list. My mom bought a present for my nephew’s birthday that would be coming up. My friend made sure to knit a christmas stocking for the soon to be expected baby. Those important things in life. Those loose threads.

But what I think makes for a good ending in both stories and lives, is the promise of a new

beginning. That is the Easter story in a nutshell. An

New Beginning

ending that promises a new beginning for all. In a good story, the main character grows or changes in some way. Maybe it is recognizing the error of his/her ways. Maybe it is coming to realize what is important in life (like my mom said). In this way, the end also gives the promise of a new beginning. A better life.

I just finished Code Name Verity, a fabulous historical fiction book, the ending of which, although it did not please me, was nonetheless a fitting ending for a great story. It was fitting because it flowed naturally from what came

Code Name Verity

before it.

Most people like the “happy ever after” endings. Whether you end happy or sad, I would argue for leaving the reader with at least the hope of a new beginning. Even something as bleak as The Road by Cormac McCarthy gives the reader hope at the end.

So whether you look at the story of your life or the story you are writing, consider the ending. Does it tie up loose threads? Does it offer the promise of a new beginning? Does it offer hope.

Blessings on your writing in this Easter season.

Revision – Ways To Hear Your Writing Differently


Where I’m at in the writing process determines if I love revision or hate it. When I’m in the midst of revision–like I am now–I often hate it. Still, I’ve found a couple of things that help me gain a new “ear” for my writing, and therefore make it easier for me to know what needs to change.


1. My writing group.

Reading my story out loud helps me catch awkward sentences, repetitive language, lack

Hear Differently

of transitions, and other problems. But for some reason, when I read my writing out loud to my writing group, I hear it differently, and catch even more. Of course, another added bonus to reading to my writing group is that my group members (I really do have the best writing group ever) catch the stuff I don’t. In our group, everyone has a copy of the piece of writing. The author reads it out loud and then sits back and lets the other members discuss the piece. The chance to be the fly on the wall is a huge benefit to me as a writer. Did they get what I was trying to say? Did they get something totally different? Where were they confused? Where did they laugh? What did they like? Not only does my group help me know if my writing is “working”, but they inspire me to keep going.

2. Recording my writing

Audio Edito

Life gets pretty crazy, and though I want to write every day, I don’t always get the chance. The biggest drawback to this lack of daily writing is that the story gets too far away. Maybe those who write shorter pieces don’t have this problem, but trying to remember what happened three chapters ago in my novel when I haven’t written for a week or two, gets really difficult. One of the ways I deal with this is by recording my story and listening to it as I drive to and from work. Even better, I got my daughter to record it for me (not without it costing me, of course), so now I hear it as if it is someone else’s story, and that helps me to be more objective in my listening.  Not only can I keep the story going in my head, but I’m forced to listen to it without making changes. This may not always be good, but since I’m revising for plot right now, I don’t want to get caught up in the little details (which inevitably happens when I pull it up on the screen).

Audacity is a free audio editor and recorder that works on both PCs and Macs. I did have to download a free converter in order to convert the audio recording to mp3 so I could put

Cassette Tape
(an old audio medium)

it on my iTunes and move it to my iPod (which is what I use in my car–seeing as my car is old and only has a non-working cassette tape player–do people even know

what that is anymore?) The only other thing I purchased was a cheap microphone. It’s possible you could record with the built-in microphone, but it probably wouldn’t work as well.

Audacity open on computer

Audacity is pretty simple to use. I’m one of those “read directions only if I can’t figure it out” kind of people, so I just opened it up and got started. The red circle is record and the yellow square is stop. At first I read from a paper copy, but then I switched to split screen on the computer


Which looks like this:

Split Screen
Audacity and Scrivener

I do the actual recording in my closet (it’s a very small walk-in closet) because all the clothes prevent the echo or tinny effect that I get otherwise. And it also helps prevent other “noise” entering into the picture. (like the cat barfing or the kids fighting)



Once I’m done reading, I hit stop and then go to File and Export. I just put it on the

Export as MP3

desktop because I’m going to then import it into iTunes.







When I tell it to save, it allows me to put in some more information. This is really helpful when I pull it into iTunes, otherwise I have to try to find it.








When I open iTunes, I go up to File and click on Add to Library. Then I find my MP3 file on my desktop and add it. Kind of exciting to see it there!

My Story in iTunes








I move it to a playlist so I can listen to all the tracks in order, and then finally I can transfer it to my iPod.  Here is the first few paragraphs of my novel in progress, I Feel For You. (it is me reading (my daughter forbade me put her voice on the internet)–and I didn’t record it in my closet, sorry for the background noise.)  Valentine’s Day Storm

The Stories We Tell Others

The stories we tell others

I’ve been exploring STORY a bit in the last few weeks, and here I’d like to focus on the stories we tell others. Dragging along from last week is the stories we tell ourselves–and those, to a certain degree, shape the stories we tell others. There’s a whole lot of other things rattling in my head as well: Terry Pratchett’s new book, Dodger, The Story (a chronological account of the Bible), and Significant Objects. In a way, the stories we tell others are a form of world-building. We include details that fit within the parameters of the world we wish to create. We ignore the ones that don’t.

Life is a rich and complex interweaving of inner and outer stories. Here are a few threads that seem to run throughout.

1. We tell others stories based on our perspective of the truth.


I just finished the book Dodger by Terry Pratchett, and in the book (a historical fantasy according to the author’s note at the end) Charles Dickens explains to Dodger how truth is a fog. This explanation comes after Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd. Dodger is hailed as a  hero, but he dislikes the description because Sweeney Todd “wasn’t bad, he was mad, and sad, and lost in his ‘ead.”[ ] “I mean, I ain’t no hero, ‘cos I don’t think he was a villain, sir, if you get my drift.” Charlie then explains how truth is anything but simple because it all depends on perspective. “Truth is a fog, in which one man sees the heavenly host and the other one sees a flying elephant.”

Think about eye-witnesses. Every single one sees a different accident because every one of them sees it from a different perspective. That’s part of what makes eye-witnesses so terribly unreliable.

So what does this mean for your writing? First off, it’s a great way to develop character. Second, who you choose to be the narrator determines the story. Sometimes people go with more than one narrator for that very reason. And finally, think about how aware (or not)  your character is about their and others’ bias in perspective. What do they do when something challenges their “world?” How close does their story stick to the facts? Reliable narrator or unreliable narrator.

Best Foot Forward

2. We tell others the stories we want them to hear. This, of course, involves not only what we say, but maybe even more importantly, what we don’t say. A lot of our self-esteem is tied up in what other people think of us, and so it makes sense that we–both consciously and unconsciously–try to shape that image with the stories we share. If I want people to think I’m strong and practical, I might not want to share how I got all teary-eyed when the cat died in the Ramona and Beezus movie I was watching with my daughters.

This summer I got a bit bogged down in how to start the story I was working on. Mind you, I’d already written several different beginnings, but I wanted to use the “best” one. I finally figured out how to start the novel when I remembered to “ask” Jane (the narrator) how she would tell the story. To make a story ring true, the author must always remember who is telling that story. What would that character share or keep secret?

On the flip side, sometimes people hear what they want to hear–no matter what they are told. Terry Pratchett (being a master writer) uses this in his book, Dodger. The main character tells the crowd that he didn’t fight off the terrible villain Mister Sweeney Todd, but it doesn’t matter. The people are sure Dodger is a hero who valiantly fought off a savage murderer. That, after all, is a much more interesting story than carefully disarming a war veteran who is in the midst of a post-tramatic stress flashback.

The Upper Story

 3. We tell stories we think our audience can understand and relate to. 

I’ve worked with 7th and 8th graders for many years now, but still find myself talking over their heads. All those blank looks, and I know I need to change my story into something easier. Think about it, the story you tell about where babies come from changes depending on whether you are talking to a 7-year-old or a 13-year-old. (And, for those twenty to sixty ((and above)) you might get something like Fifty Shades of Grey)

On a less physical note, I was thinking about this idea of story and audience at church where we are reading through The Story, which is the Bible put in chronological order. As we study each chapter, the pastor makes a point of talking about the Upper Story and the Lower Story. The Upper Story is what God is doing to bring about His plan of salvation. The Lower Story is all the daily lives and dramas of the Israelites–and us. So maybe God tells the story of salvation through the daily dramas because that is what we can understand. Think of myths. Zeus with his thunderbolts was something the people of the time could understand and picture. Could it be that when the Bible was written, the earth being created in six days was understandable, whereas millions of years of change was not so understandable.

In your writing — How do your characters shape their stories based on audience? And of course, some of the conflict comes in the misunderstanding between characters, so maybe your characters don’t understand each other’s stories.


4. Stories give value.

The book, Significant Objects, talks about a study where authors were hired to write a story about an object and then sell that object online along with the story. The results of the study showed that a good story made an object more valuable. I thought a lot about this. It seems to hold true to more than just objects. Think about people. So easy to stereotype–until you get to know an individual’s stories. That is when we start to see them as a person of value, maybe because so often our stories share common elements. In each story, we can see a small reflection of ourself.

And finally,

5. The stories we share with others either let people in, expanding their world and ours, or shut them out, locking us in. In your writing, do you (and your characters) shut doors or open them? Something to ponder as you build words and worlds.

Worlds of Stories


10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s No.1 Crusher – PsychCentral.com (blog)

See on Scoop.itFeed the Writer

10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s No.1 Crusher
PsychCentral.com (blog)
10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s No.1 Crusher “The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt,” wrote Sylvia Plath in her journal. And she couldn’t have been more accurate.

Sarah McElrath‘s insight:

Love #1. It is the power of the stories we tell ourselves that determine who we become.


"1. Remember self-doubt is a story.

As Davidson said, thinking you’re not good at something doesn’t make it true. Her art teacher triggered her self-doubt, but it was the stories spinning in Davidson’s mind that stopped her from creating. And these disempowering tales were clearly distorted."

See on psychcentral.com

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

One of the things that fascinates me the most about being hardwired for STORY, is the stories we tell ourselves. How much of those stories are true, and how much are lies? And are we even aware when we lie to ourselves? I know I am sometimes, but what about the rest of the time?

We all tell stories to ourselves that aren’t true. This is partly because nobody can ever be completely objective. We see the world through the filter of our past, our experiences, our upbringing, our expectations. This means the stories we tell are biased. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing–as long as you realize it. This is where it becomes important to listen to the stories and opinions of others, even those that are opposite of ours–especially those that our opposite. What scares me about today is how many people get their “news” from Facebook or Twitter. The ability to filter the world is both a blessing and a curse. What if we only follow those who are like us? Those who have the same beliefs and the same ideals. Those who say only things we like to hear. How will we ever know if we are lying to ourselves if we never check our stories against what others say and believe?

Sometimes it is good to lie to yourself. How can this be, you ask? Well, let me tell you about student teaching. The only way I survived was to keep telling myself I was confident, it was no big deal. I needed that “story” to act confident. It’s the whole, “fake it til you make it” thing. (Which, now that I think of it, was how I survived high school too.) Still, I was aware that it was a story I was telling myself. Head games.

Use this in your writing. In my first novel, Black Dragon, the protagonist tells herself a story

Dragon Fighter

to stay alive. She tells herself that she is a dragon fighter because dragon fighters fight, they don’t just give up and die. Think about the stories your characters tell in their heads. How can you use these to help your character survive and grow?

Sometimes it’s not good to lie to yourself. I’ve listened to people tell themselves stories about being incompetent, uncreative, or stupid. The saddest part is when they really believed those stories. Here’s the thing about stories–they have power. Even if you say those kind of things without really meaning them, eventually, if you tell yourself that story long enough, you start to believe it. It becomes true–to you.

Use this in your writing. The negative self-talk can tell us a lot about a character. But the opposite is true too. What if you have a character who thinks German are superior and Jews are inferior? Or what if you have a character who’s inner story is that he is a genius and all other people are idiots? What kind of things would that character be willing to do? Take a look at the Columbine shootings if you want the answer to that question.

Columbine by Dave Cullens

I’d read and heard a lot about the shootings at Columbine–of course, working in a school made me extra sensitive to all of it. But I couldn’t wrap my head around how these two boys could walk around that school shooting people and whooping it up like they were having fun. What kind of things were they telling themselves that made it “okay” for them to do such horrible things to people they knew? Finally one of my friends recommended the book Columbine by Dave Cullen. The book is non-fiction, but reads like a novel. I couldn’t put it down. Sifting through thousands of reports, police records, journal entires and more, the author paints a very chilling picture of Eric Harris as a psychopath who believed he was superior to all. Eric Harris’s warped inner story is what allowed him to shoot classmates in cold blood.

At the time I was reading Columbine, I was struggling with one of the characters in my YA manuscript, I Feel For You, and I started to think the solution involved that character’s inner story. So what do I do when I’m stuck in my writing? More research, of course. (not that I’m advising this) I read the book, The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule (An excellent book about serial killer Ted Bundy) and Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, PHD. One of the things that struck me most was the sentence, “Psychopaths frequently see themselves as the real victim.” How someone’s inner story could be so far from the truth was astonishing to me. Ted Bundy worked on a Crisis Hotline helping people through some terrible dark moments. Yet he was a brutal killer. The disconnect still boggles my mind.

Broken Inner Stories

One of the reasons I write is to understand myself, others, the world around me. And those things that boggle my mind keep me writing. Hope it works the same way for you.