In my post about the writer’s “I gotta” bug, I detailed the struggles I had working the ending to “One Last Favor.” I sent my story with a revised ending to Toni Rakestraw. A few weeks later, she sent me the edited tale with the line edits and thought balloons, and at the end, noted “I’m not quite satisfied” with the ending. An ending could be happy or sad, but I wanted my readers satisfied, and now is the time to fix the problems before the story goes to print. Once the book goes to print, the ship has sailed.
But this ship hadn’t left harbor yet. “One Last Favor” is a novella. Because of its length and its army of walking dead, it’s the last story in the City of Brotherly Death anthology. The zombies and revenants are chasing after Tara, the protagonist. All up, a delightfully creepy tale, but with an unsatisfying ending. It’s like someone handed me a red silk gown studded with gemstones, and telling me, “Here’s your present, Barbara. The dress is yours to keep on one condition: you can’t wear it.”
Toni and I discussed the ending by email. I asked her what she thought of the ending. She couldn’t give me a direct answer, but she asked me if I was striving for a happy or unhappy ending. She also asked me how I ended it originally. Well, at first I had Tara joining Kraven and the undead, and that ending didn’t wash. Tara was too dedicated a nurse, and most people in their right minds wouldn’t give up their humanity to join a race of flesh-eating monsters. She then suggested that I rework the ending but with Tara and her lover together. This I did and I’ve also gotten feedback from my writers’ group. One of them mentioned Jonathan Maberry’s Write and Sell Short Stories class and his discussion on information dumping.
You may wonder why I’m bringing up information dumping. Information dumping is one of the worst sins a writer can commit, and that’s precisely what I did with the ending I’d sent Toni. I wrote a paragraph summarizing Chris (Tara’s lover) proposing to her, moving her to a new apartment, and then fading into the sunset while she deals with the horrors alone. Capital mistake. A marriage proposal is a life-changing event and not something to be tucked in a laundry list of back-story. Not only that. Chris has become an important figure in Tara’s life, and a gentleman like him wouldn’t let her face those monsters alone.
I also needed to resolve the central conflict, that is, the dead overrunning the state and eating people. I can’t go into details lest I give away the story but I addressed this with my last rewrites.
Once I addressed the central conflict and wrote the marriage proposal scene out, the ending began to make sense. I’ve gone through two rewrites since Toni’s seen the ending, and now I’m letting it sit while I work on other parts of the project. I will want to show it to my writer’s group once more.
Sometimes you need information dumping in your first drafts just to get your story down, but then ditch it in your rewrites. My WOP, Blood Moon Rising, a sequel to Steel Rose, has plenty of information dumps, and I’ve got my work cut out for me once I finish edits on City of Brotherly Death and Steel Rose.
Has information dumping been a struggle for you, and if it has, how do you deal with it? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.