Endings Keep Running Away From Me

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I use Grammarly for english proofreading because if I didn’t you’d be reading this post in Martian.

I’ve been working on a story for nearly three weeks now and I’ve hit a wall.

It started with a character I created a few months ago for another project. Her name is One, which is short for Onesiphorus. She has a dilemma. She’s come into possession of a book and that book is forbidden. I followed her through her day to day life. I’ve gotten into her head and heard her thoughts. I understand her. I’ve given her something to sacrifice and fight for. I’ve challenged her current situation. I like her.

I had a vision when I started this short story (an off-shoot of my current novel length WIP) of where she would end up. In my vision, One is looking out over the walls of her city into the vast barren plains that constitute the hinterlands. She is contemplating self-exile.
The vision ends there. I’m not certain how she gets to this place or how things went so badly. I realized that the ending, in particular the journey my character travels to get to the end, eludes me.

Endings, no matter the story, elude me. I almost always know where I want my protagonists to be in the end, but the just before is this mysterious place I can’t seem to get to. It scares me too because this is part of my craft, a huge part of what I want to do and somehow I feel like I’ve run into a wall every single time

I had such difficulty when it came to the ending of An Unproductive Woman. AUW came to me in effortless linear waves. There was never a moment when I felt stuck, when I had to go back and fill in any gaps. And I did this all without an outline. But when it came to the ending, I choked. And this is evident in the reviews that AUW receives. Some of those reviews site an unsatisfactory ending.

How do you know when a story is finished? What constitutes a satisfactory ending to you?

Alif Negotiates (Another Hinterland Excerpt)

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Hi there friends… It’s been awhile again, but for good reason. I’ve actually been steadily and actively writing, although I haven’t updated the word count in the margin in awhile. I’ve been working on a short tentatively titled The Book about a girl named One. This tale addresses issues of censorship. It is very strongly influenced by 1984 by Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. I love both of these books.

Alif’s first incarnation
by The Artist (http://theartist23.tumblr.com/)

 

In any case, I wrote Alif Negotiates quite awhile back as I was doing a little character exploration. Alif is a character that will show up later in the Hinterland Chronicles series. I have plans for him to be the eventual partner to Bilqis’s daughter. Of note, his character started here in Honor&Truth, my incomplete online serial novel. I stopped writing H&T because it had so many plot holes. I went back, rethought things, re-outlined, and it turned into The Hinterland Chronicles. I still go back from time to time and read it and despite how raw and unedited it is, I still like it a lot. Enjoy the excerpt and let me know what you think.

*****

“It’s bright out there,” said Mali.  The vendor waved Alif further into the tent so that he could stand beneath the canopy and out of the sun.  “Don’t think I’ve ever seen you this early in the day.  Something up?”

Alif wore an old straw hat with a wide brim that wobbled with each step he took.  Had anyone other than Alif been wearing the hat, Mali would have laughed.

“Gotta make a run later this evening and I wanted to catch you before you left.”

“I understand.”

Mali made his runs through the mid-Atlantic province on a strict schedule.  Each week he’d set up camp at a different settlement to sell and trade goods. His specialty was electronics.  He’d been doing business with Alif for nearly two years and he’d come to know the taciturn male quite well.  Alif always visited his tent on Fridays, Mali’s last day encamped, and always after sunset as Alif’s translucent skin was too sensitive for daylight rays.  

“I have a transceiver set I believe you’ll be interested in.”  The vendor reached beneath the table where he displayed his wares and pulled out a ragged cardboard box.  “They look like brand new, don’t they?”

“Nice.  They don’t make these anymore,” said Alif accepting the transceivers, weighing them in his hands.  “What’s wrong with them?”

Mali enjoyed haggling with Alif.  He was almost as shrewd as him.  There wasn’t an electronic gadget that Alif couldn’t dismantle and reassemble into something better than it had been when brand new.  In the past Mali had tried to convince Alif to leave Settlement #53 and travel with him and be his repairman.  He even offered thirty percent of the profits.  With Alif’s skill, Mali would be able to sell more goods and expand to include repair work.  And Alif’s cool demeanor would cause would-be bandits to think twice before targeting him.   

Alif refused each time sighting obligations to his settlement, but Mali couldn’t see what kept Alif so attached to the settlement where he lived practically as an outcast.  They called him Inuwa, ghost, behind his back and the more superstitious among them whispered that God had cursed Alif’s black mother with him, an albino, for refusing to identify his father when she grew large with her pregnancy.

“So you read minds now, is that it?” asked Mali chuckling.

“No man can read minds or divine by touch. That’s all superstitious nonsense. But we all have a sense of things, if we would just trust that sense.”

Alif handled the transceivers, turning them over in his hands and manipulating the buttons.   “You have batteries?”

Mali reached into his pocket and handed Alif two batteries he’d recharged that morning for just such a purpose.  Alif slipped the batteries into place and adjusted the dials, pushed the buttons, and speaking into one held the other up to his ear to hear his voice echo back.

Alif removed the dark shades he’d been wearing to protect his eyes from the sun and turned his attention back to Mali.  His eyes were red rimmed with irises the color of water.  “I don’t see anything wrong with them.  Like you said, they’re like new.  But of course,” he said probing Mali with those eyes, “there is something wrong with them.  Come clean, friend, if you want me to give you the money.”

Mali laughed again, but this time to disguise the chill that traveled down his spine when Alif pressed him with those colorless eyes.  Did he not know the effect he had on people?

“You’re right.  There is something wrong.”  Mali reached into the box and removed a monitor about half the size of the transceivers, and like the transceivers it was silver with yellow trim.  “There is a tracking device hidden in them.”  He pressed a button on the side of the tiny monitor and two green dots appeared and an irritating beeping sound emitted from the speaker.  He quickly turned the monitor off.

Alif handed the transceivers back to Mali and stepped back.  “You should know better.”

Of course Mali did.  Tracking technology had never done their people any good.  The city dwellers used it against his people time and again to find them, jail them, cheat them out of what was theirs, the little ragged bit of it that there was.  Those in the cities reveled in taking from his people and as such anyone among the Proselytes caught with anything resembling tracking tech was considered a traitor and a danger.  At worst, such a person might end up dead.  At best, such a person would be exiled from his settlement, which was worse than death.

“The thing is, brother,” said Mali leaning in close so that no one could hear them, “I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful set of transceivers.  When I saw them, I thought of you.  If anyone can deactivate the tracking tech, you can.”  Mali slipped the monitor into his pocket when a man approached his tent to inspect his goods.  He greeted the man with a smile and a nod, but he was too preoccupied with an old alarm clock radio to pay him any notice.  “Look at them,” he said dropping his voice further, “they’re too beautiful to pass up.  And you could put them to good use, or resell them yourself and for a pretty sum, I might add.”

Alif’s eyes narrowed as he considered Mali’s words.  “So, you couldn’t sell these to anyone else, could you?”

Mali chuckled.  The boy was quick as a spark before the fire.  As cold and controlled as Alif appeared, Mali had no doubts that there was a fire brewing beneath the surface.  He also knew that he never wanted to bear witness to it.

“Okay, I’ll take them,” he said, “but at a reduced price.  And I won’t negotiate.”

“I’m the one who is supposed to refuse negotiation.  Remember?  I’m the one with the prime goods here.”

“I’ll be doing you a favor.  If you get caught with these, you’ll be wishing you never saw them.”

“Seventy-five credits.”

“Twenty.”  Alif held up his hand before Mali could protest.  “And my promise not to tell anyone that you had tracking tech.”

Mali looked long and deep into those red rimmed eyes and knew that he wouldn’t be able to change to his mind.  Besides, he hadn’t expected to get even the twenty credits for the stolen property.  “Alright, brother.  Twenty it is.  Shall we shake on it?”

I Have Done My Job

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Idealised workspace, 2011

A a writer there are very few things I want more than to have my writing read. That sounds simplistic, but it does touch on the general gist of what I mean. Certainly I want my readers to like what they’ve read, to write stunning reviews, tell all of their friends about me, thereby causing my sales to skyrocket, causing me to make lots (not insane amounts, just lots) of money, so that I can pay off my house, give in charity, give my children a great life and quit my day job so that I can create more tales that people want to read, BUT none of that is as important to me that my writing is actually read.

I would be a writer even if I never made a single penny doing it. (Which isn’t that far off the mark right now.)

Like most writers, I have something to say. As an introvert, since I rarely actually say these things out loud, writing is my mode of expression. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read, stories that resonate with me, and that hopefully have deeper meanings. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking or teach anyone a lesson, (preachiness in fiction is a big no-no), but I do hope that when readers have completed my tales they walk away with lingering impressions about the characters and situations, that they continue to think about the story for days or even weeks in an effort to suss out the deeper meanings, or at the very least because they’ve grown attached to a character and they miss her.

Recently I received a very unexpected heart-warming email from a woman who had just completed my book. She’d downloaded it for free during one of my past Amazon KDP promotions. She said:

“I have subsequently told friends about An Unproductive Woman and what a wonderful insight into another part of the world and culture as well a message to all of that we are so very alike in so very many ways.”

and

“While not a Christian, I do believe in a power greater than myself.  The absolute everyday faith depicted in your book caused me to download the Qur’an too, I have my reading cut out for me for some time to come!”

The very fact that she took away the message of ultimate sameness across cultures and faiths from my novel despite the supposed divergences there appear to be and that are played up by our media absolutely took my breath away. Even more, in spite of the fact that An Unproductive Woman is not a religious read, the fact that she made the conscious decision to learn more about people (Muslims) who are often made to seem other and alien is the greatest validation and the greatest payment I could ever receive for my writing.

When I received her message I nearly cried. It let me know that I have done my job.

*****

Thank you for the email S.V. You made my year… probably my career as a writer.

Thank you Kindle Buffet for posting my book on your site so that people would know I exist.

Thank you to anyone who has ever honored me with the time it took to read my book and write a review… even if it wasn’t favorable.

Happy Ramadan to EVERYONE!