Writerly Wednesdays

The End

“The opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending. The sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.”

~ Orson Scott Card

“Just look at the language we use to talk about endings. Nobody ever accuses the beginning of a story of being a “cop-out,” or a “cheat,” or of “falling flat.” Beginnings don’t have to pay off anything, or explain everything. The beginning of the story hooks us, and makes a bunch of promises — and then the ending has to deliver on all those promises. So perhaps it’s not surprising that it’s slightly easier to make promises than to deliver on them. We expect a lot from endings—and we have every right to.”

~ Charlie Jane Anders

There are many exciting new beginnings happening here at ICW, and a few new beginnings in my personal life, as well.

So, it’s weird, I’m thinking about endings this morning, wandering the web, finding many questionable, and also interesting and illuminating comments about endings…the ones above were my favorites. I haven’t read any of Charlie Jane Anders’ books, Orson Scott Card is a favorite of mine.

I know enough about both of these authors to know we’d probably disagree heartily about certain things. But these successful, proven, award-winning authors seem to understand, at least in theory, the essence of what makes a good ending, and on that, we embrace.

“Delivering on the promises,” which is why an unsatisfying ending, one that might be forgiven in a lesser work, is so disappointing in a work that, up-to-that point, had shown such promise. It’s also why an inspired ending can change my review of a novel from “good” to “great.”

This is true with people, too, and leaders, movements, relationships. It’s easy to emote a statement, a protest, a promise—but delivering on those: that takes time, intelligent thought, patience, perseverance, sacrifice, effort, compromise and just plain grit.

Words, symbolic gestures—it’s not that they are unimportant. But they’re just the beginning. Pressing that “submit” button on the ICW member page is only the beginning of being supported in your writing journey’s ups and downs by the ICW community. It’s also the first step toward encouraging other writers in ways that no one but you may be able to do or understand. Persisting, going the distance together through the highs and lows: this is how we end well, whether it’s your first short story or your twentieth novel.

And then we begin again.

About this post: Originally published on Worth of a Word. Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.


  • Lisa Michelle Hess

    Lisa Michelle Hess has lived in every state on the Pacific Coast and loved the people in all of them. Over the years, she’s been a journalist, non-profit consultant, bookseller, and literature teacher, which were all her favorite jobs while she had them. Her current favorite career is Bookpusher at the Boise Public Library in Boise, Idaho, where she lives with one husband, one dog, and two turtles. You can find some of Lisa’s other stories in Passageways: A Short Story Collection. The Ghost of Gold Creek is her first full-length novel.

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