Sunday, January 4, 2009

Endings and beginnings: about writing

Norrie and I were talking yesterday - and among other things, wondered about some viewers expressing their interest in a sequel to Saving Grace - someone even asked flat out when part two would be coming!

Now on the one hand, this, of course, is flattering - it shows that the viewers like Grace enough to want to know more about her, see what will become of her... they got involved, the character grew to be real to them, which is a great compliment.

On the other hand, my reaction to this is just "No!"
To me, this story is told. Everything I wanted to touch upon with this movie is there. It is the end of what I wanted to tell about her.

I remember I got quite a lot of queries about a sequel series when I did the four parts of Stolen Death , which ended in a wide open, too.

Which brings me further to musing about why I dislike so-called "happy endings" so much. As anyone familiar with my stories can probably agree upon, I'm perfectly fine with endings that revolve around death - I've killed off my "heroines" and "heros" so often, made me wonder about my state of mind sometimes... :p .. but honestly, a protagonist dying is not necessarily bad - sometimes, it is the only way a story can end.

It's probably because I see life as not having "happy endings" - at least not in the fashion that is implied in calling them that. At best the thing that we get sold as a happy ending in any given Hollywood movie is not an ending, but the beginning of something new. Too often endings seem to be manufactored so that the audience can go away "happy" - every string of the story caught up, everything tidied up to a neat, no room for own ideas, all's well that ends well, thing.
Everyone is happy, we can go home now. Oh bugger off, that's just - not real!

I don't want to have everything delivered on a silver platter. Life doesn't work that way. I want room for speculation, I want the sense of a new beginning. I want to have my own thoughts about what this new beginning could be all about - or not, if I choose it to be so. And quite often, I do choose the latter.

As Norrie said yesterday:

Acceptance and contentment are a wonderful thing.

Concerning the characters I write about, I accept that their story is told.
I let go of them. I accompanied them on a part of their way, and now they wander off into the unknown, and I am content to wave them fondly goodbye.

6 Kommentare:

Killian said...

Nice rant and entirely accurate my dear.

In my opinion (and have discussed this with others before), the story is merely the framework the teller uses to develop the character from their current state to the next. It's all about development for me; if the character doesn't grow or change in even a small way from the start to the end, at least in the eyes of the audience, then what was the point of the story in the first place?

Eye candy is great, but unless there's something else to hold it together, it's not so interesting in my perspective.

I dunno; maybe I'm being pretentious here (it's talking to Norrie too much that does it :P), but that's my opinion on it, anyway :)

Norrie said...

Pretentious? Watachi?
I couldn't believe someone asked for a sequel to see what happens when Grace awakens!
Finds a new home... goes back to sleep. Sounds great eh?

Strange obsessions with sequels when it comes to sci fi!

Killian said...

Yeah, yeah; I was one of the plebs who asked, but in my defense it was only 'cos I didn't want it to be over :)

Matt Kelland said...

Absolutely right. Back when I was a student, playing D&D, we took the view that what we were telling were sagas, and the saga ends with the death of the hero. So sometimes, a player would ask that his character not be brought back, because his death was so dramatic, we wanted it to end there.

Also, about 20 years ago, I wrote a novel. A publisher said they'd take it, but only if I wrote two sequels and made a trilogy. Well, I wrote book two and hated it. So I stopped right there, and never sold the book. Stupid, maybe. but it didn't feel right.

sisch said...

Stupid? No, I don't think so, Matt - I believe I wouldn't be able to do that either.
Once you start to consciously compromise yourself to cater to an (publisher-perceived) audience, it's no longer the story you wanted to tell.
One sees that so often - a writer hits the market with a good story - everyone loves the book - and then, under the pressure of his publisher, he/she starts writing a) the same story over and over again, in slightly different settings; or b) starts writing sequels, which take more and more away from the original story - all for the sake of making money... I'm not against making money, far from it - but is it really necessary to go against one's feelings and beliefs to earn some when it comes to something so personal as writing?

It's even worse in film - let's just take the film "Highlander" as an example - I absolutely loved part one. But then, because of the success, on came part two and three.. and I sincerly wish I had never seen them, or even heard about them....
I believe that in writing, and film making, truly great things are only achieved if you follow your heart, and your own vision.
Of course, I'm aware that I'm an idealist. :)

Killian said...

Good comments by both Matt and Sisch; as Matt says, the "happy ending" isn't always the best way for the "story" to end (be it game, movie or novel); sometimes the story makes it almost vital that there isn't a "happily ever after" (and mention of RPGing reminds me of several good examples of where the very thing you talk about happened).

If the story requires it the characters to end up a certain way for the tale to be told and the point made, then it ends that way; period. Anything else is pandering to the audience ;)

Respect to Matt for refusing to compromise his artistic principles in pursuit of the almighty dollar! :) I just wish Hollywood would follow the same precepts; maybe then we wouldn't see endless sequels trotted out in an obvious effort to rake in the cash...

On a related note, I'd love it if people who make machinima were less concerned with making (or remaking) Hollywood movies and concentrate their talents in new and original (as far as story will allow, anyway!) directions; my cynical side just sees these as a blatant attempt to avoid the hard work of creating characters and situations and trying to "cash in" on an intellectual property without making the effort to be at least somewhat original; possibly I miss a lot of good movies by sticking to my principle of avoiding these like the plague, but that's my decision.

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