Monday, February 15, 2010

Story Beginnings and Endings

We had quite an adventure over the weekend when we decided to brave the elements and climb the hill across the road from us. It was a hike Bill and I've taken before, but this time we hoped to get a good look at our house from up there. On previous hikes, we've been unable to see it because of the trees' foliage, but this time we were certain that a winter landscape would afford us a clear view. Confident, we headed out. Who cared that, after two snow storms last week, seven inches of snow covered the ground?

As we began, I found myself thinking about important elements in story lines, including a story's beginning, middle, and end. Here we were at our story's beginning, facing the challenge of a "quest." What obstacles would block our progress in the story's middle? How would we reach the end, goal intact, and maybe even learn something along the way?
Well, if you include the roundabout route we had to take, the deep drifts that nearly swallowed us, and the biting wind at the top that threatened frost bite (not really, but it sounds ominous!), we faced plenty of obstacles. We trudged, trekked, and floundered. And for what? Turns out we couldn't see our house after all--except for a small patch of red roof off to the the right. The scrubby brush was just too thick, even without leaf cover.

But so what? Though the end of our story turned out differently than we expected, we came away with something better--a new perspective, a sense of accomplishment, a fun memory to add to our repertoire. Things that will last long after the story is gone.

Why, come to think of it, maybe these are among the elements I've been searching for as I write my new story. What about you? What recent adventures have helped you in writing--or living--your story?

Beginnings and endings remain with the reader long after the story is gone. They are powerful, emotive signs cut into the storytelling trees. Pay attention to them. Work hard on them. Ignore them at your peril. Otherwise you will get lost in the woods of your writing and never find your way home. --Jane Yolen, A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft

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