Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Balancing Act

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Right before I had my baby, I got the evaluations back on my newest manuscript. Overall, they were mostly positive, and I was happy about that, but I do have some changes and rewriting to do.

This manuscript is one that is close to my heart. I have been researching it for well over a year and I love my main character and the situation he is put in. If any of you have read Dangerous Connections, this book is about Ethan Barak from that novel. Ethan is sort of my gray character, a mixture of good and bad, and he's had to decide whether the light or darkness within him is going to win. I honestly didn’t know if my readers/publisher would be interested in a novel where the main character isn’t exactly hero material and his actions have been less than stellar in the past. He’s a dark horse with a lot of issues and is thrown into an international incident that pushes him to his limits. I have to say that writing this character was a challenge and yet it was a joy as well, if that makes any sense. It’s been intriguing to see where this character and novel have gone since I started writing it.

But the evaluations I received also pointed out something that I’ve always had a problem with—my ending is too happy. So, I’ve been working on finding a happy medium, something not too depressing, yet not too happy either. It’s sort of hard for me because I’m a happy ending type of girl and in my opinion, you can get enough realism by watching the news and reading is my escape from all that. I guess I need to work a little harder at making things not quite so happy though. My job as the author seems to be to find a medium---not too happy and perfect, but not too dark, something that both my readers and I can live with---and I’m making progress.

I’m still trying to adjust to my new schedule as a mom of a newborn, but I find that my writing is calling to me, the ideas for my edits are flowing and begging to be written down. I’m going to do my best to indulge my writing passion while still balancing the rest of my life. It’s a problem every writer faces, but one that I wouldn’t trade. So far my balancing act today has consisted of reading some of my writing out loud to my baby and it put him to sleep, so then I got distracted by his sweet angelic little face, and I ended up putting the writing down to just gaze at him, probably with a goofy adoring look on my face.

I guess I’ll try the writing thing again tomorrow.


At 11/04/2010 7:51 PM, Blogger Debra Erfert said...

Isn't there a difference between a happy ending and a happy conclusion? When does the story really end? On the last page? Of course not. Any reasonable reader knows there’s another scene even if though it’s not written out for them to see. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be happy. A couple who laughs sweetly and is holding hands at the end of the book may have a horrible fight and break up, and, rip! There goes the “happy ending” tag.

It’s the same way with a cliff-hanger terrible ending. One moment we think everything is going to work out perfectly only to find someone gut-shot and dying on a hardwood floor. That's not a happy ending, but we know in our rational mind that things will get better and "be happy."

I prefer the ending that leaves me feeling good as opposed to feeling like I want to rip the stuffing out of the nearest piece of furniture out of frustration.

Good luck with your third draft, and eighth baby. (I hope I got the numbers right :)

At 11/04/2010 9:00 PM, Blogger Sheila said...

Julie, you are an amazing lady. You are doing the right thing by spending as much time with this new little one as you can. As you well know, they grow up too fast.

I am excited to read your new book! Good luck with finding the right balance for your ending.

At 11/05/2010 2:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of a happy or sad ending, why not try an exciting ending, suspensful ending, or an intriguing ending, or a provacative ending, or a puzzle-solved ending (even though its not a mystery you can still do that), or how about "and that's what happened to the artifact" ending (Like the lost ring, or the secret map, or the key to the palace treasury, or the all the gold, or the code to the nukes).

Remember the movie first contact. It was about reason vs faith. And it turned out that the astronaut woman character didn't go anywhere on the rocket ship machine time travle contraption they built. So we're disaapointed. Reason won out over faith. The poor girl thought she'd gone to a new world, but it turned out she'd gone nowhere and they had the video of the failure to prove it. Except, there was that little tag ending, that left the ones who wanted to prove that faith was real, and the director of NASA or whatever space agency that built the machine wanted to know why there were 20 minutes of fuzzy screen they couldn't account for on the onbaord video machine. So the viewer of the movie is brought back to square one. Is it reason or is it faith? It was a terrific ending because you're left wondering, and you're also returned to that fifty fifty situation that all believers live in. There is just enough data to tell us the prophets, and the spirit, and Joseph Smith are so much drivel. And just enough other data to lead us to believing that Joseph Smith restored the gospel, translated the Book of Mormon, that there are living prophets, etc. etc. etc. And we're left to take the step of faith and test the waters.

It was such a cool ending. So find something like that. But not necessarily about faith, but find an ending that will leave the reader thinking about your main theme. In the movie it was faith vs reason. So what's your main theme? If you can articulate that well, maybe you could come up with a cool ending for your novel.

At 11/05/2010 11:31 AM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

It definitely is a balancing act, Julie, but I'd tip the scales in favor of holding your sweet baby--you just can't hold a newborn too much.

I'm sure you will figure out how to write the ending of your book. I also prefer a happy ending, or at least a positive one. I don't like to close a book and hate the ending. And I hate dark endings.

At 11/05/2010 11:34 AM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

I would say that on your last day, Julie, you may not regret having one less book to your credit, but you just might regret not spending enough time with one of your newborn babies! Let those distractions happen.

At 11/07/2010 12:39 AM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

I'm currently citing lots of stuff about seasons. I suppose it's because I have to remind myself that there are seasons in life. Some are busy, some are slow, and sometimes it isn't as easy to know which one I'm in. But I'm inclined to say that in this season, I think you're more than allowed a bit of gazing and writing a super-happy ending. A new baby flavors a happy ending, I think.


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