Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Such a familiar word--except, maybe, in how it applies to writing. This is another thing I learned from Cook's How to Write with the Skill of a Master/Genius of a Child.
Cook suggests an exploration exercise: "Select a finished story--your own or somebody else's--and play the 'How Many Endings?' game with it. How many different ways could you end that story? Don't judge, analyze, or otherwise evaluate...just capture the ideas. When you think you can't think of any more endings, think of one more."
With reservations, I decided to try this with my children's historical fiction manuscript. At first my brain cramped. After all, I've written the book--how could I possibly approach the ending any differently? But I grabbed a notebook and pen, and forced myself to begin freewriting ideas.
I jotted down first one, two, then three variations--and immediately scratched them. No, I mumbled, I'll stay with what I already have, thank you very much. No sense in changing things this late in the game.
But the drill wasn't finished. Even though I was sure I couldn't come up with any more endings, the suggestion was to try to think of one more. So I stayed with the exercise just a bit longer...
That's when a neat little twist--not a major rewrite, mind you, but a burst of something extra--came to my mind. An idea that has potential to strengthen my story, give it a touch more depth. Wow.
"The master writer," Cook says, "brings this sort of childlike flexibility to her writing. She ignores limits and sees instead the possibilities in a scene, an image, a word...She tries new angles, new combinations, new points of view...Master writer and teacher Ellen Hunnicutt puts it this way: If you only write the story that is planned, you will miss the story that is revealed."
See what a little extra stretching will do? Why stop at the knees--reach for the toes!