Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Endings That Are Sunsets

There isn't a time in my life where I can't remember writing.

But writing wasn't always so pleasant. When I was little I was very proud of my handwritten, self-illustrated short stories. But in my early teens . . . I was nearly ashamed of my struggling novels and hid them from all prying eyes.

needed to write stories others could love. But every story I started wandered away into some unknown abyss.


Then, in my late teens, writing changed for me after I joined a knitting group. I found a writing community on there, and we were challenged to write a short story from the prompts given.

I'd only tried to write novels, never short stories. At least not since I was little. But over the process of this challenge, of writing several short stories, magic found my pen and something clicked for me.

I'd been writing to just to write.

I wanted a story to tell – but I wasn't telling the stories I knew. All the novels I'd tried writing weren't me. They were me trying to write something that felt like a real novel. But I wasn't writing from my reality – and my endings were what gave me away the most.

My stories had no goals.
My ending had been the abyss that ate away everything.
My characters were people I didn't know.
I had no plots, I had no themes. I had nothing but words.

Until these writing challenges.

I learned to embrace my creativity. I looked at the prompts, and “What ifs” came to me . . . along with endings.

I couldn't even write a novel, and suddenly I saw the ending of my story before I'd even written it! I was elated and wrote these short stories for a good year or more before “graduating” on to other my own writing goals.

It wasn't until after using this process and finishing my first novella Silent Thoughts that I was finally able to articulate how I was doing what I was doing.

“I write sunsets,” I told a friend.

Here is what I meant:

Sunsets are the end of the day. That can be sad if you don't want the day to end. It can be relieving if the day has been too long. It can be bittersweet if the day was full of all sorts of things. But either way, most sunsets are satisfying and beautiful and give you a chance to breathe and think back on all of the day and appreciate the beauty you now see. Sunsets also hold anticipation. Because darkness will follow. It always does. But after the night, there is remains hope – the promise of another sun rising tomorrow.

Now when I write I don't just write.

I have a story to tell – actually, I have so many stories to tell. It's just a matter of choosing which one to write first. But before beginning any of my stories I envision the ending I want.

This ending may be vague in my head. It may be only a mood I feel.
When I wrote Let Me Meet Death Dancing the entire plot formed itself in my head, but I saw the ending only as an emotion. Let Me Meet Death Dancing ended when I found that emotion.

It may be perfectly imagined out – when I wrote Silent Thoughts the ending was the only scene I knew before writing the story. I didn't know any of my characters or my plot or my story. I wrote Silent Thoughts reaching out to that ending until I found it.

I'm not saying it's easy to write now.

But knowing my endings has drained the process of misery. It's also taught me that stories are not just words on paper, but words to capture something bigger.

And there's something about a beautiful ending – one that is both bittersweet and satisfying – that I feel I was born to write into every single one of my stories. Maybe that's because I love writing realistically moving fiction that captures the many aspects of human relationships and life?

Maybe it's because I relate when hope cries, laughter aches, joy knows pain?

Maybe it's mostly because I strongly believe fiction is meant to show us how to better embrace (not escape) reality, and story endings are what give us back to reality.
I want to leave the story feeling inspired and refreshed and equipped. And I want my readers to be able to do the same.

Yet, I don't feel sunset endings are unique to me, though I think this is my terminology.

Many of my favorite books have endings just like a sunset.
Authors like Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, and some of Stephanie Morrill's books.
A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews and Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson are two more examples of sunset endings.

You can call them bittersweet if you like – but I find them satisfying, too. Realistically inspiring. Overwhelmingly relatable. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Just like a sunset.

Do you like sunset endings? Can you think of any other books with such endings? What kind of endings do you like to write?


  1. This is a great post, Keturah!! I enjoyed it a lot. Endings usually decide if it is my favorite book or not, and most of my favorites have bittersweet endings!

    1. Thanks so much! And yes, I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one like that ;)

  2. This is a great way to think of it! I don't usually plan my endings. My idea of a story usually is a what if, and I don't always know the answer at first. But I just keep writing until I find the sunset. Then I know what the ending is.

    1. "I just keep writing until I find the sunset . . . " I love that! I know I've definitely done that a few times, when I had a question to explore but no answer to give yet ;)