by Rosemary Lord
As writers, we quickly learn that the most important part of writing is the beginning and the ending.
Get ’em hooked – hit the ground running; that, we are told, is how good writing should start. If you can’t reel your reader in with that first page, they probably won’t bother to read further. Especially in today’s short attention-span world.
There is a series of things we are told never to begin a story with: The weather, the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night…,” description of the scenery – and so on. Of course some masterpieces have started with these very things. So we have to know exactly what will work for us and when we can break the rules. That’s something learned along the way.
Then, there’s the ending. Always leave ’em wanting more! Of course, you have to tie up the loose ends, especially with mystery novels. Readers feel really cheated if ‘red-herrings’ are scattered throughout, yet never explained. Worst still is to have the culprit introduced at the last minute: ‘Surprise!’ That’s a big no-no, as the readers will not have been allowed to follow along with us, tracing the trail of literary breadcrumbs we leave as we attempt to create another writing masterpiece. This is another creative challenge, as the wheels of our brain spin from pillar to post sorting through the mystery we are producing. But we need to leave readers wanting more, if we want them to come back for the next book in our series; either unanswered questions about the protagonist, or interest peaked in the settings of the story.
I loved the film of the book, “The Most Excellent Marigold Hotel,” which starred Judy Dench and Maggie Smith as British seniors moving to India to start a better life at the Marigold Hotel. By the end of the first book and the film, all sorts of intriguing things were happening. It was a happy ending as they began this great adventure. We were left wanting to know what happened – how did it work out? Unfortunately, the sequel, “The Second Best Most Excellent Marigold Hotel,” didn’t fare so well because it tied up all the ends too neatly. It told us exactly what happened: all done and dusted. Nothing left for us to ask or wonder about. No ‘what ifs?’ Nothing to look forward to in the next episode.
Life, like books, has beginnings and endings. There seem to have been a lot of these recently. The simplest closing of one door often opens a new door to surprising results.
When I shattered both ankles some years ago I was earning my living as an actress, while writing on the side. That acting door closed because I was in a wheelchair for several months, before I learned to walk again. So my writing career was reborn, starting with my Los Angeles Then and Now book success.
Big doors and little doors.
A while back, on holiday with my family in Greece, our favorite restaurant was closed for remodeling. We were really upset, as we had looked forward to evenings of great food and ambiance there. So, we had to look further afield and instead discovered a charming small harbor just up the coast with rustic tavernas and a community of delightful, friendly people. A new place to vacation. That was a little door opened for us.
When my husband Rick died so unexpectedly, a very big door was slammed in my face, as all the things we had planned together stopped. As time went by, healing didn’t stop the hurt. It just felt different. New doors opened. I have done so many things I never would have done if Rick were still here. Although I still feel him very much with me, watching over me, cheering me on as I begin new adventures. I travel a lot more – spending time with my siblings and family in Europe. Something Rick and I never had the time to do. Now, I make the time. My priorities have changed.
I undertook to save the historic Woman’s Club of Hollywood from being turned into a luxury condo resort. Working long hours every day filled the void and helped me through the grief. I did not have time to think about my own situation. I found strength in the work I was doing there: managing maintenance, restoration, bookkeeping, putting on events, handling film location rentals – and growing the membership, so we have a bigger army of people to protect the historic club going forward. I was in a world to which I had never aspired. I learned a lot. I was elected President, which increased my responsibilities. But I also learned to delegate – instead of my life-long “I can do it…” practice of attempting to do everything myself. And now, that door is closing.
As I approach the end of my term as President, I relish the time that will be freed up. I will still remain on the Board of Directors, overseeing many of my current responsibilities – proud of what we have accomplished so far. But I am surrounded by a new group of strong women also intent on saving the club. So I can step back, a little, knowing the club is in safe hands. I will now be able to return to serious writing time.
The door that was partially closed after Rick passed away was my extended writing hours. I did not have the heart, or the time, to dedicate my life to writing anymore. I was needed elsewhere. Now I look forward to a fresh start with my writing. I have a lot of ideas bottled up, waiting to be written.
Who knows how this new chapter will end or when this door will close and a new door – or window – open. But I know that whatever I write I will start with a great ‘hook’ and at the end endeavor to leave my readers wanting more!
Rosemary Lord. August 2018