I find ending a story the most difficult bit of all. I’m often overcome by my emotional attachments to the characters, and my deep-seated wish to do right by them which is nice but ultimately unhelpful. I sometimes have to first write the ending I wish I could write, where the characters are made happy and the loose ends are nicely tied up – and then delete it.
In writing the first draft of Bestial that’s what I did. The ending I gave it was the wishful-thinking version of the ending which was easy to type out and required little forethought. It made me feel nice to write, but it was not a good ending. I gave The Husband its synopsis the other night while lamenting my ending problems, and his words helped me to feel finally ready to relinquish it to the depths of delete hell.
‘Yeah,’ he said, nodding sagely. ‘That’s crap.’
Nice and happy and tied-up loose ends are just crap in most books. If you need any convincing of that, remember the ending of the Harry Potter books, where all the friends are married and have children and all the children are friends and blahblah isn’t that just lovely?
Sure, it’s the end you would love to give every character of every book if those characters were your friends and loved ones, and sometimes it works, but other times you have to get a little more brutal to tell the story you intend to tell.
So instead of happy endings for all and everything coming full circle, maybe there needs to be emotions left unrequited, antagonists allowed to escape punishment, and some horrific wrongs unable to be righted. It’s real life, after all, even if you’re writing genre fiction.
Just because a story isn’t factual doesn’t mean it isn’t a true story. Just because Bestial is the story of a fairy tale doesn’t make the turmoil of its characters less valid and it doesn’t make characters themselves, even the Beast, less human.
Now I need to spend some time finding the ending the novel needs to tell its story. It is entirely about humanity, and sacrifice, and love in all its different forms. It’s about how even those with the very best of intentions can make a god-awful mess of things. Good does not triumph over evil, it simply comes into conflict with another type of good, from someone else’s perspective of goodness. This is not a happy story, this is a tragic tale of life’s unfairness, of ugliness inside and out.
There will be no ‘Happily Ever After’s here.