Friday, January 23, 2009

Finish Strong

It's exactly 3 weeks until February 13th. Why is that a concern? Am I crunched for something romantic to do for Valentine's Day? No! That evening I'll be racing another 5K (3.2 miles) in Myrtle Beach. I know I should be excited, since it means a built-in vacation, but I also know how I feel when I finish a race and the day after. I've already warned my bf if I'm hobbling like Frankenstein to overlook it :0)

What really has me filled with dread is the finish. Ever since my first race last September I've always wanted to finish. While I was panting and my legs felt like they weren't mine, I told myself "You will keep on putting one foot in front of the other until you reach that finish!" Though I wanted to flag down the safety car right behind me, fake a cramp and climb inside to ride the rest of the way. Call it sportsmanship or a stubborn streak, but I knew I had to reach that goal--the big blue and white Finish Line blow-up.

After that race, I did 2 more and in November, whether the heavens poured down rain or not I was determined to finish, since I was racing to honor my dad. He had never given up battling his cancer and I wasn't going to wimp out an not do my best. I ended up running my fastest time yet.

Now I'm facing a biggie...a race that's part of a mega sized Expo with thousands of registrants. I don't want to be last again, and I don't want to finish like a wimp. I want to FINISH STRONG. Yes, I've been training...running miles upon miles for weeks, but I still have that doubt lingering. I've fought off that little voice that says your legs hurt, your feet hurt, you want to stop, and have kept on keeping on while the treadmill's belt makes it's soothing click and whir.

Today I realized that I also use this ideal with books and movies. One of my biggest pet peeves is for a great start to fizzle at the midway point, then the plot lingers on without an eventful end. Which is one of the things I never want to happen in one of my novels. True, I do sometimes include an epilogue, because I think sometimes readers want to see what happened after the big ending.

For instance in TIES OF VALOR I knew I had to show Zara and Awyn's wedding. Not only because it brought all the storylines together, but also symbolized a union on so many levels. Now I realize that was a rookie scene, that it's something a lot of novices do, but I don't think the book would be the same without that conclusion.

In JUST ONE LIFE, I have the main characters sitting down over ice cream where the hero and heroine met, which symbolizes the starting of a new journey for them and others. Yes, it's kind of an "aw, that's sweet" moment, but I think it adds to the character arcs and ties up loose ends.

But enough about my books :0) I've seen tons of series pop up, but wonder if they will reach their projected potential. For instance some of the longer ones are getting a negative vibe because the character arcs are getting old and the plotlines are so similar. Which makes me wonder if it's time to end on a high note.

Is that the mark of a strong finish? Knowing when to say when? Sometimes I think that's a smart answer, but not always, especially if the author has been saving a pivotal character's story. I think sometimes too much of a good thing is just that, too much. The author and publisher need to know when to strike a balance. It behooves both of them to make an eventfully strong finish so that new readers will keep buying reprints.

In terms of characters, give them the time to shine! Make them work for that resolution and after they've toiled give them what they deserve--a scene any reader will gush over and tell their friends about. Doing anything otherwise discredits the characters screaming in your ear and your novel.

In the end, make the finish count. Don't just make that last page or paragraph words on a page. Don't make the last tidbit flowery unless it needs to be. But above all make the sentiment strong and give the reader something to remember, just like a snapshot of a racer crossing the finish line with her arms upraised.

You want to celebrate THE END...especially if the winner gets their spoils in the bedroom!! Between the sheets is no place to come up second best, unless there's just cause...or a rematch in store.


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