A year ago, I showed up at my first grad school residency with the beginning of a story about an unemployed, suicidal guy with serious mental health issues, a degenerative disease and a dead child. I found out at that residency that I was required to do public readings. Not really wanting to share a whole lot, I changed the character’s name from Darren to Finn and became a fiction writer.
While this character certainly began as an alter ego, he quickly took on a life of his own. Readers who know me well still seek commonalities. In my evaluation after last semester, my mentor commented, “Darren’s love for this character is palpable.” Lori read that and said, “It certainly is.” She knows better than anyone that I have no small amount of ego. However, Finn (my character) long ago stopped being a version of me.
So, today I reached “the end” of Finn’s story…again. I had written three previous endings. I have a year to edit this thing so the ending may change again, but I doubt it. The first endings I wrote ranged from downright hopeful to at least vague. The great writer and teacher Jessica Anthony told me I had to find the central emotional question my character is trying to answer.
The endings I previously wrote deliberately avoided that question. They did so mostly because I do love this character. I put him through hell. He deserves a happy ending. At almost exactly midnight last Thursday, I answered Finn’s central emotional question. It was such an exciting moment that I emailed Lori and Jessica to tell them.
Today, I reached “the end” again, and I killed Finn. It isn’t the ending I want, but it is the right ending for the character who emerged on the page and the story he told. It’s such a strange emotion. I feel mournful for this guy, but I feel exultant that I think I told his story right.
Probably more than any other time, today I can say I’m Darren, and I’m a writer.