Thought for the Day

by wjw on March 30, 2010

If you don’t give your reader the ending you promised, then the ending you actually write better be three times better than the ending the audience expects.

Ty March 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm

What a lovely and concise statement of something I believe to be the number one failing of most fiction.

You should teach writing.

john_appel March 30, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Completely concur. But whenever you make comments like this, I always suspect you've just read or watched something that transgressed – c.f. your comment from a year or so back that seemed pretty clearly aimed at the latest book from a certain Seattle-based author. Which makes me wonder what you just read or saw that didn't deliver the promised ending…

Dogstar March 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm

This is an interesting topic in relationship to your own "Hardwired". IRRC Norman Spinrad's review while generally very positive took issue with the ending. I think Spinrads opinion was that not having Cowboy successfully Kamikaze the shuttle was unsatisfactory because it used deus ex machina and changed the story arc from what he saw as a more satisfactory conclusion. Myself, I never had a problem with the story as written and have wondered for 20+ years on your thoughts.

dubjay March 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm

John, that review wasn't based on the work of that Seattle-based author. Really.

That's the interesting thing about anonymous complaints. You can attach them to anyone whose work you find unsatisfactory.

Dogstar, you have an amazingly long memory! =I= certainly remember Norman's review, though I don't know why anyone else would.

In my original outline, Cowboy was scheduled to die in that scene, but my editor made it pretty clear she wanted a sunnier ending (just as she wanted a sunnier beginning— Chapter One was added at her request, because she didn't want to terrify the audience by beginning with Chapter Two).

Since I knew the ending would be different from the one originally envisioned, as I wrote I "tilted" the narrative toward the new ending. Even though I got a new editor after I delivered the ms, and could have petitioned to restore the original ending, by that point I felt I'd justified it, so I didn't.

So if you don't have a problem with the "new" ending (now 25 years old), I hope that's evidence that I succeeded.

Dogstar March 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Thanks for the story. I think Norman’s thesis was one of detecting undue editorial influence in a variety of books. So it is also interesting that Norman’s instincts were correct. It’s been awhile since I read it but I think the second chapter was “Panzerboy” which was run stand-alone in Asimov’s. IMO it would have made a good first chapter. By the end of it there is no choice to be drawn in – the pace is just too fast to do anything else. It was that story that first introduced me to your writing and made me seek out your other books.

john_appel March 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Walter – thanks for responding! The backstory of Hardwired is interesting to me as a consumer of books in general and SF in particular. (FWIW, my introduction to your work came from a Hardwired excerpt in a periodical just as Dogstar's, only in my case it was "Sarah And The Weasel" in Omni.) And for what it's worth I'm fine with how it worked out as well.

I was pretty darn certain I'd nailed what book sent the protagonist on the long, plot-irrelevant journey, but then again, there's been several in the genre in recent years. Of course you could have been reading something completely out of the genre! In any case, a) serves me right for making an assumption, and b) XKCD says it better than I could about that particular work:

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