Finding a Short Story Ending

Plotter or Pantser?

I turned my short story in yesterday and I’ve discovered what happens when a Plotter tries to write as a Pantser:  the story comes out well, but when Pantser gets to the end of the story and she finally has everything figured out, said Pantser has to go back and completely re-write the beginning!

Not fun, but okay.  Seriously.

As mentioned last week, I knew my main character would find her daughter’s diary, be tempted, and finally read it.  I spent an evening writing teenage diary entries (complaints, gossip, and a whole lot about her boyfriend behind closed doors), and the next day it took me several rambling pages of the mother’s worries before she even read it.  I still didn’t know how it would turn out.

When I wrote the second half, I discovered that the teenager the Mom was reacting to wasn’t the deceitful girl becoming sexually involved that I had written a few days before.  Instead, she was still innocent, moody on the outside (what teenager isn’t?) but basically a good kid.  Her mom had read the diary for nothing.  So Mom tries to carry on – shouldn’t be a problem, right? But unbeknownst to Mom, daughter has a small object as a bookmark that had fallen out.  Mom puts it on the dresser while cleaning up, daughter knows diary has been read, and Mom is left clueless on how to rectify the betrayal of trust.

Once the ending had clarified the story for me, I could go back and fix the beginning, putting scenes in that would show the mom better, heighten the conflict and make the daughter’s actions fit a moody-but-innocent teenager.

I guess the result is a story that’s different than if I wrote it planning on Mom’s reaction to lies and cheating and sexual entanglements.  I don’t think the character of the daughter would have changed if I had known the ending toward which I was writing.

On the other hand, I did plan and re-write the first half with this ending in mind, so isn’t that a way of being a plotter?  It took extra revision time, but it worked.

Would I be a Pantser again?  For a short story, probably.  But I sure wouldn’t want to write a novel and have to revise the whole first half that way!

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4 Responses to Finding a Short Story Ending

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