Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marching Towards The B3 Ending

I'm assuming there'll be spoilers in this entry, so you probably should assume the same.

There was a very interesting comment on the previous entry, which I'm going to quote almost in its entirety:

Linda Joy Singleton said...

Because I get the sense that this ending is one which could be dire...I'll share a little something I learned from Betsy Byars who learned it from Lois Lowry.

In the book, MUD BLOSSOM, Betsy was going to kill off the grandfather & the dog at the end. The book was beyond galley stage. Then Lois mentioned to her that in one of her books a main character dies and the majority of her fan mail is about that tragedy -- that while 99% of the book was about living, all the readers took away and focused on was the death. So Betsy pulled back her book to rewrite the ending, and the book went on to win the Edgar award and (although not on her priorities) the book also won my love.

Now I want it clearly understood I'm not saying the ending to This World We Live In is dire, or darling, or diabolic, or even dreadful. Delectable maybe, but as we all know, I'm not the most objective person when it comes to my writing, or in this case, intended writing (I'm still working through some of the plot details, the leftovers of a migraine, and the World Junior Figure Skating Championships). I really truly honest yulie have no intention of revealing the ending of the book, and even if I should weaken, which I won't, I can't, because I promised my friend Christy (aka she who knows the ending) that I wouldn't.

By the way, Christy has apologized for writing Yikes about my previous B3 ending, which I decided against because she wrote Yikes. But it's all for the best, because this B3 ending is superior. Which I know, because she hasn't Yikes it once.

Here's the thing (ha! I bet you didn't think there was a thing). Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone are about Miranda and Alex's responses to a rolling series of disasters, which at first affect them only slightly, but as the stories progress, take more and more of a toll on them and their families.

So B3 has to be truthful to the books it follows, but it can't just be more of the same. If there are volcanoes erupting in the west, I can't move a Bigger And Better Volcano to Pennsylvania. Nor can I have the sky magically clear itself of all that nasty volcanic ash.

This has proven to be very tricky. There has to be a balance throughout the book, enough food (for example) so that the characters don't starve to death (a constant threat in the second halves of LAWKI/d&g), but not so much food that the readers go, "Well if there's that much food around, what were Miranda and Alex so worried about in LAWKI/d&g?" I can't retread old problems, but I can't create new ones that don't fit into the world situation I've created ("Oh look," said Mom. "The President has come for a visit. Welcome to our home, Your Idiocy.").

In addition, although B3 is a continuation of Miranda's diary, it's a much denser book, taking place in three or four months, rather than nine or ten. There are at least two reasons for that- one being the food that's coming to town (just how long would it continue to come) and the other, Matt and his bride Syl (I had no interest in Syl getting pregnant, or there being questions about why she hadn't gotten pregnant).

Good gravy (or as Christy would say, Yikes). No wonder I've been suffering from insomnia and migraines.

Back to the ending of the book. Although my first B3 ending was simple and sweet, I knew almost immediately it wasn't powerful enough. The trick has been to come up with an ending that is legitimate (which means, no "We kissed and the volcanic clouds disappeared in the sunburst of our love") and not too devastating (no "We stand united as the lava flows closer and closer and now it's lapping our feet and we're suffering agonizing deaths"). Yet with all that, it has to be an ending bigger than the beginning and middle of B3, and the beginning, middle and endings of LAWKI/d&g. Which is why it's taken me a few days and at least one Yikes to figure it out.

On the other hand, the ending falls into my comfort zone, and I don't anticipate once I start writing it (maybe even tomorrow) that I won't know how to write it. Which is a good thing, because the contracts came in the mail today, and most likely Harcourt will want a manuscript complete with beginning, middle, and end.

They can feel free to tell people the beginning and the middle, but they'd better keep the end to themselves!


Katie Oz said...


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi back Katie Oz!

Anonymous said...

How Goes It?? :)


Katie C. said...

Susan, I LOVE LIFE AS WE KNEW IT!!!!!! I SOOO want to read the dead and the gone. I've recommended these books to my classmates and during the weekend i took to read this, i REFUSED to go to any of my friend's houses because I didn't want to put it down. I know the dead and the gone will be even more intense and i am SOOO excited!!!! I LOVE your books!!!!!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Katie C-

I'm glad you liked LAWKI so much. I had a wonderful time writing it, and I love hearing when other people enjoy reading it.

I hope your classmates like it too!