What’s the Ending?

For the last month of the year, my theme is the most difficult part of writing a story–the ending. I think endings are much tougher than beginnings. A writer can a begin a story any number of ways. But for a reader to close the book satisfied, the ending has to tie all the threads of the plot and character development into a convincing, plausible climax and denouement that both surprises the reader but also makes her nod in agreement.

Coming up with an ending before a beginning doesn’t seem outlandish to me. Knowing my ending gives my writing focus, a goal. I know where I need to end up. The question for me is how to get there.

So what’s the ending this picture can inspire? Have the two characters successfully solved a mystery? Pulled off the perfect crime? Is it some kind of reconciliation or reunion? Maybe it’s a tragic ending. Maybe on character is toasting the other and hiding his loathing for him.

I see the toast as an echo of the beginning. This was something the two characters did regularly. Then they were hit with adversity, either external–some problem kept them apart–or internal–one could’ve grown jealous or suspicious of the other. At the end, they have overcome the adversity and can engage in their old ritual as a sign of healing.

What’s the ending that this photo suggests to you?

Winter Solstice as Writing Inspiration

I am reprinting last year’s Writing in Time as I attempt to finish my WIP by Dec. 7.

Christmas overshadows every other December holiday in America. Yet the winter solstice is the reason we celebrate Christmas in this month. Both the history and nature of the shortest day of the year can provide ideas for using the winter solstice as writing inspiration.

Many ancient cultures, according to The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump, figured out which day in the northern hemisphere had the shortest amount of daylight, all without the help of computers. Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated this time of year. Egyptians commemorated the birth of Ra, the sun god. Babylonians and Syrians saw the solstice as a symbol of returning fertility to the land. During the Celtic and Germanic holiday of Yule, noisy celebrations warded off evil spirits that roamed in the darkness.

In a brilliant move of counter-programming, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth in December and compete against pagan holidays. We still use some of the pagan traditions. Christianity has given them new meanings to pagan customs, like lighting candles and decorating with evergreens.

The juxtaposition of the most hours of darkness and the happiest holiday on the Christian calendar makes a great symbol for the journey of a character. As December grows darker, the character experiences more and more adversity, hitting bottom on the day of the solstice. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hope is restored. The day with the most darkness is also a fitting setting for the climax of a thriller or mystery. The hero and villain confront each other on a night when evil seems to be at the height of its powers.

For speculative fiction, a villain reaches her most powerful state during the winter solstice. The hero, whose powers are at their weakest, must come up with a way to stop the villain from taking advantage of the solstice.

How can you use the winter solstice as writing inspiration?

Christmas Book Giveaway!

CHRISTMAS BOOK GIVEAWAY! To celebrate the Christmas season, I’m holding a drawing for the prize package in the picture.

Almost everything you see is from the Buckeye State. The candies are from Marie’s Candies, founded in West Liberty, Ohio. The ornament comes from the shop Celebrate Local, which features only products made in Ohio. From the Lake to the River is a collection of short stories all set in Ohio, past and present, by Ohio authors, including my YA mystery “Debt to Pay”. Although stories in Christmas fiction off the beaten path take you as far away as the fantasy realm of Callidora and ancient Bethlehem, three of the six Christmas stories are set in Ohio. My YA mystery “A Rose from the Ashes” takes place during a snow-bound December in southeast Ohio.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on any post here or on my Instagram or Facebook pages from now until 5 p.m. Dec.15. I will announce the winner on Dec.16.

You must be a U.S resident and 18 years or older. If you are younger than 18, you must provide proof of permission from your parents. If your name is drawn, you have two weeks after I contact you to claim the prize.

I’m so excited to give you all a chance to sample the best of the Buckeye State!

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