I always know how a story ends before I write it. Only when I have that ending do I then work backwards, trying to find the best and most dramatic way to arrive there.
When endings are very clear cut – for example, the answer to whodunit – writing becomes all about how you make the big reveal; what details should emerge first, how the mystery should build to this crescendo that will hopefully wrong-foot and delight the reader.
However, when the ending is more esoteric – for instance, when it is about a character’s emotional and spiritual journey – choosing the specifics of a satisfying emotional and spiritual resolution can be much trickier.
As a case in point, my novel Children of the Folded Valley presented me with a serious dilemma in early outlines. I always knew what would happen to the protagonist James Harper inwardly, but I was stuck between three different act three scenarios that would demonstrate how it happened.
(SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FOR Children of the Folded Valley)
My earliest idea involved having James buy his model train from an older man who turned out to be Paul Crow’s long lost father. They would share a mutual catharsis in that James would explain what happened to Paul, whilst the old man presented James with the long lost train set of his childhood he had sought for so long. In this version, Paul had a much more active role in the uprising prior to the destruction of the Folded Valley, and died heroically in the fiery horror of that sequence.
I rejected this version of the ending because it placed too much emphasis on Paul Crow, who is a secondary character. Thus, he had a reprieve and survived the Folded Valley apocalypse.
I then prepared a version of the ending more or less as it is now, but shorn of the supernatural elements. Arthur Lord was not an ambiguous figure, but definitely human. However, whilst this ending worked, it still didn’t feel quite right to me. I realised that however far-fetched it might seem, my own belief in the supernatural meant the ending required something a little more mysterious.
Subsequently I arrived at the ending as it is now, which can be read a number of ways. I do not presume to offer any correct interpretation, as I designed it so the reader can make up their own minds. This element of the plot was a big worry to me initially, but given how much readers have embraced the novel it seems I was correct in devising an ambiguous ending with an air of the mysterious and supernatural.
Children of the Folded Valley is available from Amazon for Kindle.
Print copies can be ordered from Lulu.com: http://www.lulu.com/shop/simon-dillon/children-of-the-folded-valley/paperback/product-21812308.html