Round Trip

by Lisa Bullard

9_24One of life’s great sat­is­fac­tions is return­ing home after a long jour­ney. We rejoice in the famil­iar clasp of our own bed, in the brac­ing taste of our home air. Every­thing seems com­fort­ing­ly the same, yet also fresh and remarkable.

This is because, even if home has stayed the same, jour­ney­ing has changed us. The cat’s sus­pi­cious inves­ti­ga­tion of our for­eign smell confirms it: We have returned to the place our old self lived, altered by the world. You can go home again, but it will be a dif­fer­ent “you” that you bring there.

This think­ing comes in use­ful when I talk with stu­dents about sto­ry end­ings. Strong sto­ry end­ings have two impor­tant ele­ments. Even young writ­ers seem to intu­itive­ly grasp the first: some kind of sat­is­fy­ing res­o­lu­tion to what­ev­er con­flict the char­ac­ter is facing.

But stu­dents often over­look the sec­ond ele­ment. That ele­ment focus­es on the way the char­ac­ter has been trans­formed by fac­ing the con­flict. How have they been changed by tak­ing the long and com­pli­cat­ed jour­ney through the story?

A sto­ry that doesn’t include this sec­ond ele­ment is eas­i­ly for­got­ten. The sto­ries that do explore char­ac­ter trans­for­ma­tion can linger in our imag­i­na­tions long after we’ve returned the book to the library. Moments from these tales may peri­od­i­cal­ly spring up to sur­prise us, like the unex­pect­ed whiff of sun­tan lotion the next time you open the Mia­mi suitcase.

Here’s a way to explain it to your stu­dents: A mer­ry-go-round only cir­cles us back to the place where we start­ed. But before the ride is over, we’ve been through a whole lot of ups and downs. A ride like that alters a person.

Great sto­ry end­ings have two parts: First, the writer gets the char­ac­ter off the horse. Then, the writer shows us how tak­ing that wild ride has changed the char­ac­ter forever.

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Jessica Bigi
Jessica Bigi
7 years ago

tins is a won­der­ful way to look at writ­ing and also the chal­lenges of ever new day