Unless my characters rise up in revolt today, I’m finishing up the last chapter in my latest novel, for which SusanH has suggested the title, Sir Kay’s Last Quest. The question for me always is: how many loose ends to tie up?
In the editing process of Return from Avalon (and Points West), my editor “suggested” that I get to the end quicker after the climax of the story. When I went back to work on it, I discovered that there were 21,000 words after what most people would regard as the climax. Holy crap, that’s 20% of the book! I painstakingly cut 7,000 words. 7,000 very good words that I’d lovingly crafted in the first place. If I ever become rich and famous as a writer, after I die somebody may be going through my papers and discover those missing 7,000 words. Then there will be a big brouhaha over them and a new edition published with the “lost words,” sort of like they do with long-dead TV series, and then everybody will have to buy a new copy and of course you can’t get that one signed by the author since I’ll be dead. Maybe I should sign a bunch of labels in advance and store them with the lost words. Except that nobody keeps papers anymore, just 40 different versions of manuscripts in digital form. And who would be going through that!
In Strange Bedfellows, you’ll remember (well, probably you won’t. But I’m reminding you so you’ll remember), there were 4 final chapters, one from each characters’ point of view. A tidy little 5500 words. During which we got the happy family moved to the Caribbean, engaged, J.G.’s little girlfriend confirmed to have extra-sensory powers and still around, a messy threesome with Morgan/Tig’noire, etc.
In Avalon, S.C. there weren’t that many loose ends. J.D had been left on the island; Rick and Sabrina had moved from semi-platonic to fully-lubricant lovers. What more was there to wrap up? Adeline offered Rick the job of staying at the cottage as caretaker, they agreed on their story to tell the Sheriff about J.D., Sabrina wasn’t pregnant, plus a nice teaser that ties in with Return from Avalon (and Points West) and sets up a potential novel where Sabrina goes to Wales and meets Vivian and Meg. 1,948 words and we were outta there.
Sir Kay’s Last Quest has a lot more loose ends. I’m just not sure how many of them to tie up and how many to leave loose. Like the Holy Grail: touch on, or leave hanging? Morgan’s redemption? The upcoming discovery of Lancelot and Guinevere tryst by Aggravaine and company?
Sometimes books have an epilogue where they list the major characters and tell what happened to them. This is a frequent device in military books where a platoon fights together, then disbands after the war (or in the case of Vietnam, rotate home). Curiously, everybody is a success at something; nobody ever lives a life of bleak mediocrity where they lose the house due to mortgage foreclosure. But using that device for an Arthurian book would be even worse:
- King Arthur: dies in the battle of Camlan
- Sir Kay: dies in the battle of Camlan
- Sir Gawain: dies in the battle of Camlan
- Sir Aggravaine: dies in the battle of Camlan
- Sir . . .
Hey, I didn’t write the original story. And some things you just can’t up and change. At least with Morgan, we’d have a different fate.
- Morgan le Fay: learned how to jump into the bodies of “special nieces” to avoid death. Last seen in the 21st century in the body of an 18th century voodoo priestess.