In the seventh and penultimate class of Carol Bruneau‘s WFNS creative writing workshop, Bruneau focused on ways in which to re-envision and revise your story as well as how to find a satisfying ending.
Creative Writing with Carol Bruneau: Week Seven
When it comes to finishing your story, Carol Bruneau says that “everything in a [story] is geared towards the ending: that is the impression that you want the reader to take away and remember.” Bruneau points out how there are various ways one can approach an ending. For example, sometimes a writer knows the ending first and writes the story as a way to work towards it, whereas other times a writer may not know the ending until he or she has written several drafts. However, Bruneau states that the “best endings are recognized, not invented,” which is often the same way the story structure emerges. (To see what else Bruneau has to say about dramatic structure please visit my previous blog post, “Creative writing tips: The architecture of fiction“).
After you’ve written the ending and have a complete draft, next comes the revision stage. Bruneau says it’s helpful to go back through your story and look for places where you can either foreshadow the ending “by planting seeds along the way, [like] images” or cut writing that foreshadows the ending too much — you don’t want the ending to be predictable or obvious: “Foreshadowing must be subtle enough to set up the ending so it seems inevitable but is still surprising.” She also explains that during the revising process it’s often useful to rewrite your beginning and/or ending. Some writers even choose to wait and write the beginning of a story last in order to make sure the beginning fits with or reflects the ending.
Bruneau also explains that part of the revising process is to re-envision the story. Not only should a writer think about whether or not the story has enough (or too much) detail, and fill in plot holes, etc., but a writer should also put him or herself in the readers’ shoes. What kinds of questions might a reader have about your story and how can you answer or explore these questions in your story? Are these the kinds of questions you want your readers to ask when they finish reading, or have you left out important information? To re-envision your story, Bruneau suggests interviewing your protagonist (and maybe other major and/or minor characters) to see if there is anything of importance that you may have left out. To practice this technique she gave us the following exercise:
Interview your character from the point of view of the narrator, another character, and/or a prospective reader/editor. Did you learn anything new that might be important to the story? How has your character surprised you or changed during the course of the story? Is there anything you need to add or change to your draft? Are there places you can insert new information or tweak your draft to accommodate a new “truth”?
Consider how your character might respond to the following questions:- What are some mistaken impressions people have about you? What are some correct impressions? - What secret about yourself do you most want to keep? - What secret about someone else is the most distressing for you to keep? - Can you describe a time when you did something you now wish you could have done differently? - Do you have a secret you’ve never revealed to anyone? - What frightens you most? - etc.
Lastly, during your revisions Bruneau suggests analyzing your story by looking at it critically. Identify the climax and ask yourself if the ending is plausible. And don’t forget to look at the beginning of your story. Will it hook the reader’s interest? Can you identify the protagonist’s main problem? Moreover, are there any plot holes that need to be filled, or sections that might not fit or need to be moved?
My own advice for writers during the revision stage is to have someone else (a friend or relative you know won’t sugarcoat his or her critique) read your draft. The writer of a story is inherently too close to his or her own work to often notice plot holes and whether or not something fits or is plausible, but an outside eye will often see what a writer may not notice right away. Putting yourself in the reader’s shoes is helpful when you start to revise, but actually having someone else in those shoes can be invaluable (especially before you send your work out for submission).
Please leave comments with your own helpful tips on wrapping up and revising a story. I would love to hear from you.
My next blog post will go over Bruneau’s eighth and final WFNS creative writing class where she discussed publishing and submitting your work.