Uncle Josh Contemplates Narrative Bookends

As part of my online writing course, someone asked for a critique of a story that she felt wasn’t working. I offered to blather about it a bit. One of her concerns was the ending falls flat. There was a decent enough emotional ending, but I think I understand her feeling. The rough story: Inspector on unpleasant field work. The draft I have is 8 pages long. The first 6 and a half pages take place in the field, the last page and a half in the office, where the narrator learns she actually suceeded in the external task of the story.

In my commentary, I suggested that this feels wrong because it is only one half of a pair of bookends. If the story started in the office, went to the field, and returned, then the bookends may work better. Alternatively, cutting the setting of the ending and keeping it in the field brings the end closer to the meat of the story. By this point, the world building was well enough established that a few paragraphs of inner angst while driving home were just inner angst, which the narrator could have had anywhere.

Then I looked at one of my short stories which has gone through every major market and several smaller markets. My story starts in the narrator’s office to set up the story problem, then transfers a coffee house date where the rest of the story happens. I, too, only have one half of a pair of bookends. Maybe there’s a way to fix it, and maybe there’s a market or two left where I can send it, otherwise, it’s off to Smashwords if I can figure out what the cover should look like.

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