By Nick Chiarkas
Although I love the idea that, “Art is never finished, only abandoned” (Leonardo da Vinci), as an author I nevertheless must decide when to type “The End.”
To be clear, when writing a non-fiction book, I pretty much know at the start where it will end. But as a novelist, deciding when the book will end is more an agreement between me, the story, and one or more of the characters.
When writing a novel, I write, “The End,” at least twice. First at the end of my initial draft. I then wait two weeks before I look at my draft again and begin the rewriting process. This is the art and the heart of it, this is when I get to build castles (“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ― Shannon Hale). These are the rewrites I can share with my initial reader, and later with my editor and publisher.
When rewriting openings and closings to each scene, I ask, “Why would the reader want to read on?” and “Why did I start and end the scene with that line or in that way?” The opening and closing to each chapter is even more important. And as crucial as they are, asking “why” at the opening of the book and at the end is monumentally more critical.
In “Weepers” I made four promises to my reader.
First, through foreshowing I promised the coming of an event. For example, in chapter one, which takes place on Christmas Eve, Angelo asks his father why no one has stolen the three Christmas trees on the Journal American Newspaper loading platform. His father answers, “They belong to Uncle Nunzio.” The reader has not met Nunzio yet, but I want her to assume that Nunzio is not someone you should cross. I make a check-off list of all of my foreshadowing, as well as other promises, for my final draft review.
Second, through character development, I promised a change or some other action in one or more characters. For example, in chapter two, Angelo’s mother, Anna, tells Father Joe (her priest) that Angelo is changing and becoming more like the projects in which, they live. I now have an obligation to my reader to show that change to a reasonable degree and at a believable pace.
Third, through each major character, I promised a consistency that rings true. So, while in my first draft, “the end,” was a resolution for all main characters, such an ending would have been a betrayal to Angelo, Anna, and a couple of other characters. To make that ending ring true, I would have had to jump ahead by means of a prologue that I fear would have felt like a ploy to my reader. In addition, since “Weepers” is both a stand-alone novel, and the first in a four-novel series, I had to decide which sub-plots to wrap-up, and which ones to dangle in an effort to create anticipation for future novels in the series.
And fourth, I promised the resolution of mysteries. Describing “Weepers” in 15-words I would say that a, “NYPD cop killing in 1957 has unexpected ties to a young father’s disappearance in 1951.” So, here I must unravel the killing of a police officer, the disappearance of a young father, and the six-year link between them. I must do this with suspense, reasonable surprise and intrigue. And at the same time, my reader must not feel cheated (no bolts of magic, dreams, etc.).
In short, by the end of the novel, in addition to answering questions raised during the story and meeting expectations, I must do so without disappointing my reader. Consequently, after first writing an ending that wrapped everything up in a nice buddle, my initial reader (my wife Judy Olingy) said, “No, no, Angelo and Anna would not respond this way. Consider ending here (sooner).” She was right. I cannot over-state the importance of a good initial reader and editor.
Finally, as I said above, “Weepers” is the first of a four-novel series, but I also want it to stand-alone. Therefore, some questions and foreshadowing remain, however, it is crucial that they are not detrimental to a free-standing story.
In the end, I want my reader to say, “That was a good read, a satisfying ending, and I would like to read more about the Weepers, Angelo, Nunzio, Anna, and others.”
About Author: I grew up in the Al Smith housing projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When I was in the fourth grade my mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that, “Nick was unlikely to ever complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, I became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way I picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University; a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told their child is hopeless? How many kids with potential simply surrender to desperation? That’s why I wrote “Weepers”—for them.
Weepers Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6RTOr9gB3E
Available: Weepers by Nick Chiarkas is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, University of Wisconsin Bookstore, Mystery to Me, other local independent bookstores, and from the publisher. Amazon Barnes and Noble https://www.mysterytomebooks.com/weepers http://www.uwbookstore.com/ www.henschelhausbooks.com