Barbara in Montana likes my endings. From the time I started writing my weekly posts, she’s told me that she finds the endings are often the best part and reads them first.
Can you imagine how much pressure that adds to the process? Now, not only do I want something equally entertaining and interesting, thought provoking but not too heavy, words to make you go hmmmmmm and ho ho ha ha, but now ALSO the ending has to be Barbara-WORTHY.
I don’t really know where the endings come from.
Writing, inspiration, requires priming the pump which is why you have to be disciplined to do it every day or in a routine. Usually, it’s a pretty rusty pump. You have to start with a few vigorous thrusts of whatever quality, to get it going and get the brown stuff cleared out. Then, it just goes. Not all of the words will be funny or insightful but enough of it will get you started. And then you don’t really know where it “came” from.
It does seem fitting as we approach this year end retrospective of 2016 to write about endings. I often don’t know where they’re going until I get there. I pretty much always know how I’ll start…somehow… or I can’t (prime the pump!) But I often don’t know where we’re going to get to, and I like to think I am trying to emulate good fiction writers who develop characters and then often don’t know what they’re going to do. (e.g. Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
I’m decent at Summaries. I think this is because my posts still follow the essay form taught by my tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Gatewood at Rio Americano High School. Introduction, thesis statement, three points, conclusion. To do that, you have to have the outline in your mind, which means after the fact you can hang your summary on those three or four points.
In a business presentation, you create an Executive Summary after you produce your three or four points’ worth of fascinating analysis. Then you put the Executive Summary at the front. Then, after your corporate overlords review the powerpoint, they take out all those pesky details like your data and your thought processes, and stick those in an appendix. Or a Supplementary Document. All they need to know is how much money this will make or how much it will cost. They don’t need no stinkin’ clever endings.
I’m happy not to write any more Executive Summaries. I always hated to think my life would just be a Supplementary Document. I suppose the Executive Summary is what ends up on your tombstone. I already have decreed that mine should be: EASILY AMUSED.
However, in honor of the corporate analysis merit badge I used to flourish, I have analyzed my endings and determine how to categorize them. I would create a bar chart, but I am finishing this on my phone in the car, and Excel is not very cooperative on a three inch screen. I can, however, calculate!
Therefore, with much pomp and circumstance, here is the 2016 Kajmeister Endings Executive Summary Analysis, in proper bullet point form. (This is a little joke. I was forever getting coached — by multiple managers — for using too many words and being insufficiently capable of writing short bullet points. Why are you not surprised?)
- 40% of my kajmeister endings I would categorize as smart ass, and 70% of those were one-liners, attempted “mike drops.” I can’t guarantee they were successfully amusing, but apparently at least half the time, I was trying for quip-worthiness.
- 28% would be described as attempting to be profound, with about a quarter of those going for full-on elegiac. If the first bullet was attempting a hoho, this is going for a chin-stroking hmmmm.
- The remaining 32% are straightforward statements, neither funny nor excessively thoughtful. Those are the “I can’t think of anything else interesting, maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.”
- 76% are short, at 15 words or less. I only go full Thomas Wolfe a quarter of the time.
- About 20% of the time, I literally tried to make a pun or joke. Another 20% of the time, I threw in something random to be funny. You can be the judge of whether that works. I guess it does for Barbara.
- 32% of the time, the ending echoed the beginning or the title, so at least every third blog or so, I got where I thought I was going. The other 2/3 of the time, I ended someplace else and thought it was worth staying.
I don’t know what endings readers might have liked the most, so here are the two that are probably my favorite, representing the opposite ends of the spectrum:
Also, when in doubt, just eat cake. That always works. (2/17—Stay Together for 39 Years with this One Simple Trick)
Your destination comes into sight and there it is – Mount Rainier or Mount Shasta or Mount Rushmore, Chicago or Dallas or New York City, the desert or the ocean – at last, at last, at last. We’re here! (8/24 – Road Trips: America in Miniature)
2016 is coming to a close and we’re here. For me, it was a good year personally. For the United States at large, not so much, as the year ends with a rash of heartbreaking news of the passing of beloved performers mixed with a dose of ugly politics. In the latter sense, many are happy to see 2016 end so we can start afresh. Which points out that part of the purpose of endings is to clean the slate, so there can be a new beginning.
There’s a reason that movies often end with riding off into the sunset. The day is closing, the earth is moving on, and the solar system is telling the characters : THIS IS THE END. But the solar system doesn’t shut off, it rotates. So there will be a new beginning soon to follow the ending. Everything seems to include this idea of the ouroborous – the worm swallowing its tail. There is a beginning and an ending, but the ending takes us to where there will be another beginning. All endings contain the seed of a new beginning.
Humans need a sense of introduction and a sense of closure. We also like more; if it’s a good story, and we care about the characters, then we want to know what happens later. So we invented sequels. It is natural as breathing—maybe it even comes out of breathing. Every breath needs to have an in and out, a start, and a clean, full, sighing finish. And then we start again. In, out. Another. In, out.
And then we start again.
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