I can see the end point, my goal, my target word count shining in the distance. I rev myself up for the final sprint to the end. It’s so exciting! All the plot lines are converging, all the characters are ready for the final scene, and I actually have some idea of what might go down. Only three thousand words left and I’ll snap through the yellow ribbon marking the finish line.
But wait. I’m out of breath. I’m thirsty. And that hitch in my side won’t let me go on. What is it? Why won’t my legs carry me forward? Maybe I’m getting arthritis in my fingers from typing so much. Maybe I really DO have carpel tunnel syndrome. More likely, I’m afraid to commit to the ending. Why? Because that means my characters will be cemented in, trapped in the page, locked into their destiny. Right now, as it stands, they have options. They have choices. And, oooh, that’s exciting. That’s what keeps me coming back. If I polish off the ending, there’s the risk that I’ll lose interest. And I’m worried. I’m worried that my characters will be relegated to a two dimensional life, looking out from the page in words and symbols, their dialogue ever to be bracketed by quotes and their actions diminished to glances and gestures.
As I think about this dilemma, I wonder, am I avoiding the ending because it represents, in a way, a loss? Will I grieve for my “imaginary” friends? I’ve traveled with them through their journey of self-discovery. I’ve stood at their side as they confront the things they fear most. And I’ve given them pep talks before they charged ahead for the final conflict. I know I’ll miss that.
Of course, I will meet then again for editing. It’s like a reunion. The problem is that time has passed and the events “we” lived through have been sealed away in “our” memories. To review them again means looking at them through the filter of nostalgia. Will my characters look the same? Will they be wiser? Will I misunderstand something they did, when it seemed so logical before?
And—this is even scarier—how will they cope with being forever stuck in a moment of time, replaying their “plot” over and over again? Will they have the opportunity to “rewrite” their path, change their eye color, pick a different favorite playlist on their iPod, or, God forbid, choose another person to “crush” on?
Tell me, friends, what’s it like for you before the ending?