I came across this quote the other day:
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story” ― Frank Herbert (author of “Dune”)
That has become more and more true of my writing as I’ve delved deeper into the fictional lives of my characters in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. But, let’s face it, that’s life.
Most of us see numerous changes in our day-to-day, from new jobs to broken relationships, from new homes to shattered dreams. We might start a new chapter in our lives, but the story continues.
Consider someone you knew well in high school but haven’t seen or heard from in decades. Tell us that person’s story. There’s a point where you stop, but you know that’s not the ending.
Additionally, isn’t that part of the fun of a book?
The story ends and the reader is left to imagine what happens next.
Many years ago, I was in a community theater production of “The Children’s Hour” by Lillian Hellman. In the play, tragic events cause my fiancée to suggest we go our separate ways for a while so I can pursue another job. My character acquiesces but insists we’ll be back together soon. The play ends before we see what happens between them.
Lisa Cox, the woman playing my girlfriend, asked me while we were off on the side during rehearsal running through lines, “What do you think happens between them?”
“I think he comes back for her and they start a new life together out West. What do you think?”
“I think she never sees him again.”
And, of course, in our individual interpretations, we were both right.
What I’ve found myself doing – much to my enjoyment, by the way – is planting seeds for future stories.
In “The Reporter and the Rose,” reporter JP Weiscarver and photographer Cole Thompson took the long way to an assignment in order to avoid the dock area of Oldport because it was cruise ship day and tourists congest the area.
Now, that had nothing to do with the story at hand, but I have on my list of possible story ideas a murder taking place on a cruise ship. So, just in case, I established that an occasional cruise ship visits the Oldport area.
In the second book, “The Reporter and the Penguin,” one of JP’s co-workers in Antarctica mentioned she had a job lined up for the following summer in Yellowstone National Park. I did so because I knew I wanted JP to visit Yellowstone. It took three more books, but in the most recently published “The Reporter and the Marmot,” he did just that and met up with Cindy Murphy.
In “Marmot,” there are a couple of references to a free publication in town and to its publisher. If you read the book, you’ll find a bonus chapter at the end which indicates they play a role in the next story.
Finally, I will sometimes come across the need for something to happen and will go back into an earlier book to find a character to do it … or to use a particular place I’ve already established.
All of these I consider little bonuses for readers who have followed the entire series. I love to think the next time I have JP stop in at the convenience store King’s Mart, readers will say, “Oh, yeah, I remember Yervant from ‘The Reporter and the Sloth.’”