Guest Post: Satisfying Endings by Sarah Mussi
I’m totally thrilled to be with Maia and a Little Moore on the final post of my blog tour for book two in The Snowdonia Chronicles: Here be Witches
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME MAIA!
During my blog tour I have been interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!
And today Sarah asks Sarah …
Can you recap on Here Be Witches for our readers who have just caught up with this tour?
Right, Here Be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles
THE SEQUEL TO HERE BE DRAGONS – A PERILOUS ADVENTURE INTO THE MAGICAL AND MURDEROUS REALM OF MYTHICAL SNOWDONIA
Now this is our last blog post and we’ve covered characters and whether to change them or not; settings and how to keep them fresh; plot and how each storyline needs to stand alone in a series with an overarching goal, and now we are coming to endings – how do you set up the ending, so that you can write the next one in the series and still end this story off satisfactorily?
Wow – good question and quite hard to answer … anyway I will have a go at it. I think one of the lovely things about writing a series is that readers can keep spending time with characters they have grown to know almost as deeply as they know themselves and they can be guaranteed another adventure in the company of those characters.
However the adventures have to be separate and different and some of the characters need to take a break and new characters need to be introduced. Also what this and many other series actually need – right from the beginning – is an overarching structure or goal. Or an unanswered question.
I think the unanswered question in the Snowdonia Chronicles is: will Ellie and Henry ever really be able to get together, or are the difficulties that separate them insurmountable?
The series then takes completely different adventures in the pursuit of this one main goal. Each of the series titles will have its own separate sub-goal that maintains the same protagonist, sidekick and romance character and antagonist. This gives the stories a coherence. One of the trickiest things to do is how to end the current story in the series so that it has a satisfactory stand-alone ending with its own complete obligatory scene and yet leaves some exciting yet totally different adventure open to happening in the next book.
So how did you do this Sarah in Here Be Witches?
First of all I had to thoroughly understand what the obligatory or climactic scene needed to achieve in every story, so that I could deliver a satisfactory and complete ending for each adventure – this is what I found out:
The obligatory scene
The closing section of a story, just before the end should deliver the final confrontation between the forces for good and the forces of evil. This is the moment when my hero must win against all odds against the antagonistic forces (for now). They must face their worst fears to rescue, triumph and survive. And yet the antagonist must not be completely defeated but retire in malice, ready to fight again in the next story with even more wickedness, malice and motive.
In preparing for the fight, I had to consider: How does the confrontation develop? Does your hero nearly lose? How do they defeat the enemy?
I also had to consider what inner resolve/strength/truth is in my protagonist: How does it help my protagonist to grow? How does it help my protagonist to overcome the antagonist? (If they do – or accept defeat.)
I had to be sure I delivered on all the following:
ACT 3 The climax /ordeal/obligatory scene/
Several things must occur at the climax of the story: the hero must face the biggest obstacle of the entire story (so far); she must determine her own fate; and the outer motivation (this story goal) must be resolved once and for all (for now).
I wanted the outer motivation to be resolved, but also for the protagonist to win by losing (be kept heroic), undergo a ‘seeming’ death (create reader empathy), and be reborn – or returned to a former (yet wiser) state.
This is important for the satisfactory ending of the story, but also important so that I could set up the way the next story will develop – so that it seemed right and natural that it should develop in that way. To do this I had to keep the series goal unresolved (will they ever be with the one they love?) but deliver on the narrative goal in Here be Witches (save Henry and Snowdonia and break the witches’ spell).
So Sarah how did you end Here be Witches … and achieve this duality?
Well, just like I set up the prologue in order to overcome problems with a first person narration, I set up the epilogue to bring about closure to the current story and yet introduce the possibility that there was more to come. Below is an excerpt from the epilogue and you can see for yourself how it puts to bed the first story and introduces the possibility that this not the end of things. Here it is!
So Mote It Be
Later that spring ~ 30th April ~ The Eve of Calan Mai*
ELLIE’S PHONE 30th April 12.00
Status: In a committed relationship
This morning the sun is shining. I’ve biked all the way up to the top of Pen-y-Pass.
I rest briefly. I check the straw man I’ve made is safe inside my pocket.
Then carry on with my plan.
I’m going to Dinas Emrys for the first time since March.
My heart pounds. I bite my lip. But I’m ready.
‘I’m coming Henry,’ I whisper.
Going downhill from Pen-y-Pass is scary. The road falls away in front of me, there’s a hairpin bend just ahead, so I cling on. The road drops and drops away, and I have that feeling, as if I’m flying off into nothingness.
I hold my breath. I tear through the sunshine, all the way down to the junction, on to the Beddgelert road. Then I race through the morning like the wind. The bike flies beneath me. I want to reach Dinas Emrys quickly. I want to lay my charm on Henry’s lair, before Sheila or anyone else tries their magick there again.
I hit the Beddgelert road at speed. Air whips my hair back, stings my eyes. The sky is as blue as blue. Sunlight slants off everything. The sides of the mountain lie covered in thick purple heather. The air is charged with such sweetness.
I shoot downhill, all the way to Lake Gwynant.
The water on the lake stretches out shining black. Sundrenched slopes rise from its shores. The road lies totally deserted; the mountain is all mine. Sometimes I like it best that way – just Snowdon and me.
I race past Lake Gwynant crouched low. Just the grey road, winding on down alongside the Afon Glaslyn, down to Lynn Dinas.
I squint into the distance. My heartbeat jumps about. The fortress of Dinas Emrys lies smack ahead.
I think of Henry lying curled under the earth, so near, so far.
He’ll be there.
I need to keep it that way.
What did George say?
‘Be careful Elles. Tonight – May Eve – is auspicious. Gran says you must lay a charm to protect Henry.’
No more witchy stuff with covens. No more trying to wake up my Henry.
An image of Sir Oswald flashes across my mind. Pale eyes. Hooded eyelids. He’ll be under the mountain too.
I slow down.
I swing off the road and cycle up towards a lush green pasture.
I take my shortcut, through a turning to a farm, behind a row of mobile holiday homes, where I can scramble up a steep slope between trees, and get to the fortress from the back. The bracken is tight and scratchy, but it’s really not too far and saves a good three-mile hike.
I go through the farm gates; it’s private property, but there’s no need to worry about the holiday homes now. They’ll be full of tourists at this time of year. They won’t give me a second glance.
I chain the bike to a handy sapling behind the first chalet.
In front of me rises a steep bank, covered by spindly trees. Thick green moss coats every patch of bark. Their roots are tangled knots of black. In parts, the rocky hillside is almost sheer. High above, a skylark trills out short, rapturous notes. I hoist myself up from trunk to trunk. I try to stay strong.
Since the spring equinox, I’ve stayed away from here, too many memories, too much sadness, but I guess I’m needed today.
I climb up to the top of Dinas Emrys. Pause. Pant. Just breathe in warm air.
Since the second landslide, the hill is not much changed. That is the way Henry planned it.
I turn to look up towards Snowdon. Everywhere is thick with brilliance, but through the blinding sunshine, blurred by the shimmer of late spring warmth, I think – no – I’m certain, I see a figure.
There he is: the figure of a young man poised on the edge of the mountain.
I rub my eyes. Is it really a figure? Or just a trick of the light? A memory perhaps? Or George checking I made it safely? Rays from the risen sun dazzle me. By the time I look again, he’s gone.
My heart starts pounding.
I squint just to be sure.
I wish so much it were Henry.
But then this is Snowdon.
The great burial den of the dragons
Here anything can happen.
Especially on May Eve.
Yes, May Eve and I have come here for crogi gwr gwellt: ‘hanging a straw man’.
It’s a tradition on May Eve that when a lover has lost their sweetheart, they make a man out of straw and put it somewhere in the vicinity of where the lover sleeps.
The straw man represents the enemy, the one that seeks to take the heart of the beloved away.
I find the right spot.
Just where I stood with Rhi.
Just where half of the north face of Dinas Emrys split open.
A vision flashes before me … trees uprooted, boulders cracked; great half-broken tree trunks sticking up in the air. That overpowering smell of crushed foliage, that sickly scent of damp earth, that great scar, huge open depths …
The vision passes.
I pin a note to my straw man.
Gran helped me craft the words:
‘By water and fire, earth and air,
Let Henry’s enemies beware.
Let the words of my charm,
Protect his heart from any harm.
Let the power of my love,
Strengthened by the stars above,
Keep him safe, keep him secure,
Keep his heart forever pure.
By the flowers of Blodeuwedd
Let none attempt to breach his bed.’
I place the adder stone on the note.
I sprinkle the place with a potion Gran brewed for me.
I look up to the mountains.
‘I will find a way to be with you again, Henry,’ I whisper.
Then I pray to Snowdon to keep him safe, out of the reach of any evil.
Until I can keep my promise.
* Calan Mai, the first day of May or Calan Haf, the first day of summer is a holy day in Wales. Celebration bonfires start on the evening before, known as May Eve. This night is considered an Ysbrydnos or ‘spirit night’ when spirits are out and about, and divination is possible.
And so the adventures of Ellie and The Snowdonia Chronicles will continue into book three … a new story with a new goal, but also one that will be the over arching goal of the series to an exciting conclusion and deliver on the seeds planted in Here be Witches!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME, MAIA!
THANK YOU READERS FOR FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!
I HOPE YOU LOVE READING HERE BE WITCHES.
Thank you so much to Sarah for being on my blog today! If you’d like to catch up with the rest of the tour you can do so here: