The end of the story

I think I’ve mentioned here that the last sentence of The Sleep of Reason brings the novel to a startling conclusion and reveals a bigger story that was behind the story from the very first page. I’ve certainly said that in all of the query letters I’ve sent, and I hope that has intrigued a few agents.

I’ve been corresponding with my reader, the art history one, about the ending. Among other things she said she was “blown away” by it. This made me worry that it seemed too sudden and incongruous given the story that comes before it, so I asked her. No, she said, the ending was not a bad fit, and she said as she considered the set up for it, she could see how it belonged.

I’ve long been interested in stories that hinge on the very last sentence. Portnoy’s Complaint is a good example. I wrote an early post about the writer Margaret Millar, whose mysteries have a signature twist ending. I’ve wanted to write one for a long time, but I never would have guessed in advance that The Sleep of Reason would lend itself to this ambition.

Yet the ending there is not intended to be a twist. Nor is it supposed to be much of a surprise. The ending — the character’s choice/fate — is supposed to be inevitable within the framework of the story I’ve told to that point. I’ve created parallel structures throughout the story and dropped hints here and there. I’ve given the character all of the tools and rationalizations he needs to make his choice — even several character names feed into the game. I began the set up for the ending on the very first page of the novel. And yet I don’t seem to have over-prepared. My reader did not see the ending coming even though it made sense to her once it arrived.

So I hope that the general reader does not feel manipulated or cheated by the ending or feel it is a shaggy dog story. I hope the reader sees that the story built to the only logical ending it could, even if it is one that most people would not expect.

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2 Comments on “The end of the story”

  1. Libby Says:

    Do you think it is time?

  2. paullamb Says:

    It is time.


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