Where Do Loose Ends Come From?

April 30, 2012

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not done talking about the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, not yet. I probably could keep talking about it until the 2013 Festival of Books, but I promise not to do that.

The books, well, there are so many, and I always come home with stacks of books…all autographed, but the writer panels are the most fascinating part of the festival for me. It’s fun to get a glimpse inside the head of other writers, to see a little of how their brain works, a little of their writing process. Sometimes I feel a connection with a writer—“See, I AM a writer. That successful writer works just the way I do.” Sometimes, I’m intrigued—“Really, that’s the way you work? Hmmmm.” Other times, it’s more like—“Seriously? You do that?” Anyway, the panels are my favorite part.

The romance panel, “Love Actually,” was of course at the top of my “must attend” list, but we saw several others as well. The first panel we attended…yes, we. Hunky Hubby attended every one of the panels with me, even though he could have easily gone off to listen to music, look at war books, sports books, car books…there really is something for everyone…did I ever mention that I write in run-on sentences? So anyway, the first panel that WE went to see was titled “Fiction: Loose Ends.” I wasn’t entirely sure what the title meant, but I’m often at loose ends in my writing and decided this was a good place to begin.

The panel was an eclectic group of authors, including author/moderator Rachel Resnick and authors Eleanor Henderson, Seth Greenland, Josh Rolnick and Jervey Tervalon. The discussion was quick, witty and intelligent, focusing on the idea that loose ends are what give us a story to tell. Clearly a plot must have loose ends that a character needs to tie together in order to resolve the issues in the story.

The loose ends could be a messy divorce, a drug problem, a murder that needs to be solved, a dark family secret that can’t be exposed. Whatever the loose ends, they move the plot, provide conflict and keep the story interesting.

But where do loose ends come from? This was probably my favorite part of the panel conversation. Do the loose ends come from your own life experience? Do they come from the experiences of real people that you know? Or do you make them up entirely?

For most writers the answer seems to be a mixture of the above. Eleanor Henderson, author of 10,000 Saints, a fictional account of the “straight edge” subculture of the 1980’s, admitted “I’m sort of square, so I write about other people’s loose ends.” I’d have to say that this is somewhat true for me. For the most part, I’ve been a “goody two shoes,” especially when I was growing up. Writing can be a way to experience things that you would never do in your real life, to try on a new personality, test the limits of danger…without ever being in danger. So the truth is, some of what I write may be inspired by what those around me do, some of it comes from curiosity and wishing I had the guts to try things, and some probably does come from my own life.

And sometimes, I find myself inspired by my characters to get out there and push my own limits a little bit, try something that I wouldn’t normally try, sometimes, I even try things that might surprise my friends and family…okay, sometimes it’s by accident, but it still counts!

What about you? Where do the loose ends in your stories come from? Your experiences? Experiences of those you know? Complete fabrication? Or like most of us a combination of the above? Are you ever inspired by your characters or your research to try something new in your real life? Tell me, I’d love to know…



2 Responses to “Where Do Loose Ends Come From?”

  1. nicolehelm Says:

    I too am a goody two shoes and very shy to boot, so I think I first turned to writing stories as a way to experience things I was too scared to do on my own. It’s morphed since then to a combo of things, but I think I still get so much enjoyment out of writing fiction because it allows me to experience things I can’t/won’t.

  2. taristhread Says:

    I’m with you Nicole!! It’s a safe way to “experience” experience things we might not otherwise do!

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