Endings

fairy-castleThe question every writer meets in a story is when to stop. How much do you need to tell the reader? How much needs to be explained? You should leave your reader satisfied, but wanting more.

Length of story comes in here. A short story is finished when you reveal the twist. A novel should finish at the point where the goal is achieved and you’ve tied up the loose ends.

A literary novel might end ambiguously, but genre readers want things neatly sorted by the end. In Romance, you’re allowed a wallow with the lovers: the HEA – happily ever after. An extended final scene exchanging vows of love ties up the loose ends. A series novel, of whatever type, still ends when the goal is achieved, but a few loose ends may be left, along with a hook for the next book.

You don’t want to keep going beyond the point of reader interest. When the story is over, it’s over. Don’t be tempted to indulge your involvement with the characters by taking them beyond the end. You will set up an expectation in the reader for another twist or turn which you are not going to fulfil.

This is good news for kids, who never think beyond the high points of action. You’ll probably have a job persuading them to tie up the loose ends!

So how do you know when the story is done? Here’s an example.

Jack has been chasing Harry and getting stopped by his henchmen. Finally he catches up with Harry for the showdown – the climax of the story. Once Jack wins this battle, that’s the end. Harry is defeated and Jack is calling the cops or slipping on the handcuffs.

The reader is capable of imagining the rest. He knows the cops will arrive, read Harry his rights, take him off to jail, give him a trial and send him down. We don’t need to follow these sequences.

Do we end the story once Jack has won? No, because there’s a loose end. Jack’s got to handle things with the girlfriend who’s left Harry and helped Jack to get him.

Author choices comes in here. With Harry down and out, Jack could think about the girlfriend and how he’s going to persuade her to go out on a date. Or – better – the girlfriend could be involved in the showdown and they could hint a plan to start dating.

Or, a short final scene could have Jack telling the girlfriend the outcome and asking her out. I would only pick this scenario, however, if there were other loose ends: other people to tell, money to collect, a debt to be paid, a boss to be appeased. Then the two things could be combined in the one scene. And I would keep it very short.

The point is that you don’t need to give the reader chapter and verse about what’s going to happen now. You just need to tie up any loose ends and hint at the probable future. The reader will do the rest. Plus, if he’s satisfied and wanting more, he may go and buy your next book!

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bailey

Coming from professional theatre, Elizabeth Bailey taught drama for many years alongside her writing career. Multi-published, she now writes full time, both her own novels and ghostwriting, as well as critiquing for other writers. Find out more at www.elizabethbailey.co.uk

Women As Composers

composing-music2014 was a landmark year for women in the world of music. When American conductor, Marin Alsop, was chosen to be the conductor of the Last Night of the Proms for 2014, she was the first woman to take that role in its 118-year history.

In July 2014 English composer, Judith Weir, became the first woman Master (should that be Mistress?) of the Queen’s Music – the equivalent of Poet Laureate in the musical world.

Two great achievements.

It seems the old taboos against female composers and conductors are finally disappearing.

Throughout the 20th century more and more women took the stage as well known composers. (For singers, we have the lovely songs of Betty Roe, Madeleine Dring, Rebecca Clarke, Elizabeth Poston – to name a few.)

In earlier times, however, this was not a path women could follow easily. The opinion of society in general was that composing/performing was an unsuitable profession for a woman and outside the bounds of respectability. Continue reading

Find Your Child’s Strengths!

story-houseHow is it possible to take a very unwilling young person, faced with a project to research and write up, and help him to create something which he really enjoys? Even better – he gets high marks, lots of praise and is told the project is the best in the class?

The answer is simple: work to the strengths. Many teachers know that they should always try to work to the strengths of their pupils but perhaps parents are not so aware. In fact, one can go further and say that parents are probably inclined to emphasise the weaknesses in their children’s work!

What do we mean when we speak of strengths and weaknesses? Well, if your child has problems with spelling, one would call that a weakness. If your child loves writing, one would call that a strength. This child loves building and constructing things. He is very good at it! It is definitely a huge strength. Continue reading

Children and Pets

child-with-a-petAs a kid I was surrounded by cats, dogs and a variety of other animals. It seems it’s a natural thing for most children to want a pet. Some people think that having a pet will teach them responsibility and others that they will get bored and you will end up looking after it.

So should your child get a pet? Overall pets are good for kids to have around unless of course they have allergies which might prevent close contact. It will teach them respect for other creatures and more often companionship. With very young and younger children you will have to accept that the pet will be your responsibility and in the first instance it may well be a pet for all of the family. It would be difficult to set unrealistic expectations that they will look after it. As they get older they may want one of their own and though you may want them to take the lead, you will still have to be prepared to ensure that it is properly looked after. The animal’s welfare is paramount in any such arrangement. In fact it may be often best to start off caring for the pet together and then see how it goes with the child taking on more of the care themselves. Continue reading

Avoid A Saggy Middle

opening-storyNot only bodies sag in middle age! Stories can easily end up with a saggy middle. It’s common for writers, however experienced, to find the story fizzling out.

Of course you need highs and lows. What you don’t need is for the momentum to drop. That spells instant reader turn-off, and you’ve lost him.

Writers often start off with a great idea, bang into the story, take us through the action, and then don’t know where to go from there. It’s not just lack of ideas, though that can happen too. It’s more the problem of knowing how to shift from one plot point to the next. Continue reading

The Joy Of Spring

botticelli-springThe Joy of Spring!

Botticelli Primavera (Spring) 1482

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king, Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring, Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing: Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

Thomas Nashe 1567-1601

In the last few days I have seen my daffodils bursting into bloom, my resident pigeons are gathering sticks for their nest, the sun seems determined to shine, despite the cold wind – Spring has definitely sprung! And with it comes that excitement that has inspired poets, painters and musicians from time immemorial. Continue reading

Keeping Your Temper

angerAs a father of three and a teacher to boot I am well aware of how trying children, of any age, can be. Children are also aware of which buttons to push to get a reaction from adults. We are not saints and we have all lost our temper from time to time with our own kids or in the classroom. If you think back to any of those times, how did you feel afterwards? I know that personally I have regretted every single occasion, few that they may be, that I allowed my temper to get the better of me.

Analytically we can say that the impulse of anger is towards trying to get a child, in this case, to stop doing something. But in reality the moment when you lose your temper is the moment that you have lost. Fear may overtake the child at the time but you have actually lost control of the situation and any advantage that you had as an adult. Continue reading

Time To Move On

happy-learningSuddenly your child seems to be playing around instead of concentrating on his homework task. He makes jokes, does silly things and generally seems to lack concentration. I had an instance of this last week with one of my grandchildren. He had been shooting ahead with his 8 -9 years Verbal Reasoning, completing the tasks at speed, and here he was being silly. Why?

After checking how much sugar he had had, my first instinct would be to search for something he didn’t understand. That is always the first port of call. He might have either a blank because of an unknown word or be confused by something or the work might be suddenly much more difficult. This does happen and should always be checked as a starting point. However, he was still answering easily and correctly, despite all the shenanigans. We had two more papers to go in the book and I realized it had all become too easy. Time to move on! I asked him if he’d like to move onto the next level and miss out the last tests and his enthusiasm left me in no doubt. He was really ready to go onwards and upwards! Continue reading

Beginnings

story-openingWhen attracted by the title and cover of a book, what’s the first thing you do? You pick it up and open it. Typically, you start to read the first page. If you are grabbed by the first paragraph, you are halfway to making the decision to read it.

That means the opening of a story is the most important part. It needs a hook to draw the reader in.

What’s a hook? It’s the “what if?” of literature. The opening raises a question, and the reader wants it answered. They want to know what’s going to happen.

Consider this for an opener. Continue reading

Music Hall Traditions

jules-leotard

 

 

 

 

 

Jules Leotard – The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze! (1838-1870)

 

Music Hall – a dead entertainment or a living tradition?

More often than not, when you introduce the idea of singing a Music Hall song to a young person, you are met with some resistance. It’s unfamiliar territory, maybe considered old-fashioned and the songs too simplistic. Students of Music Theatre are required to sing songs pre-1900 as part of their exams, so it is a subject worth exploring.

With the right introduction, it is clear that much of what we consider entertainment today was fathered in the Victorian Music Hall and the tastes of modern audiences are not too dissimilar to those of the Victorians. Continue reading