Writing Endings

When I have an idea for a manuscript, I usually have a general idea of how the story will begin and end. The middle is muddled, of course – some scenes here or there – but I generally know how I want to end it.

But here’s the thing – most of the time that ending is altered. Maybe not the full concept, maybe not completely, but for the most part, what I originally planned will grow change, just as the story itself grew and changed. Characters evolve. Stories evolve.

This is, primarily, why I never stick to an outline. (Bravo to those who do!)

I mention this in light of last night’s How I Met Your Mother finale. A lot has been said about it already, so I’m not going to review or critique it. I didn’t enjoy the ending for a number of reasons, but that’s not important. I will say that i’ve always liked the show, and will remember it as that of a great premise with really fun, relatable (at times) characters. (In other words, I’m going to watch the reruns when they’re on, and I’ll still enjoy them.) These characters started one way, and grew and evolved as the show went on. They aged, and they felt real because of that. And though at times it felt forced (Barney, specifically), we believed in their growth because we wanted it. And I loved that about the show.

(Another show that, in my opinion, showed fantastic subtle growth for characters was Sex and the City. Charlotte and Miranda had great subtle turnarounds as the seasons progressed. I loved seeing them in the end, how far they came. Even Samantha had her moments. Unfortunately, the movies kind of killed some of that for me, but that’s neither here nor there.)

When they started filming HIMYM, the creators knew how they wanted it to end, so much to the point that they filmed the final moment (the children’s reactions to the general story of how their father met their mother). (To be fair, they had to film it early, because, hey, children age.) And therein, at least in my opinion, was the problem with the show’s finale. Their ending was set in stone, no matter how much the story grew over time. No matter how much they progressed these characters, they had to have this ending.

Now, i’m sure the creators love what they did, and fully stand behind their ending. That’s awesome, and I applaud them for that (and for NINE seasons of a really popular show). But, to me, it feels so controlled. If the show ended this way after a handful of seasons, okay, maybe I could have bought it (though, I will forever say that the closing of the first episode, when it’s revealed that Robin is NOT the mother, is such a great moment, that I hate that it goes back on itself a bit), but after so long, and so much pull and take, it just feels…sad.

Because the creators did a great job of creating these characters and making us believe in both their growth apart and together. We saw them change and turn into their last season selves. So, for instance, when it was revealed that Barney and Robin divorced in, like, a second, it felt cheap. You made us believe, and then you took it away. I wanted to continue believing in them.

I’m not saying my method of changing an ending as you go is better than anything else, (hey, I don’t have a hit TV show) but I can’t help but wonder if the creators would have gone a different way if they could have. As their characters, and they, progressed, I can’t help but wonder if they even considered it.

Everything Else: 2013 in Review

Top row: S & I in the mountains on vacation, our new dining room, gifts my teens at the library gave me. Bottom row: some of my best friends, my amazing writer friends, and S & I announcing the pregnancy.

I suppose it’s no surprise that, aside from getting a book deal, the biggest highlight of 2013 for me was learning S and I were going to be parents. I mean, you can’t top that, can you? I think not. So even with the mood swings and weight gain, the aches and pains, the cravings and exhaustion, I’m still celebrating the little human that’s growing (and kicking) inside me. A friend said that once you’re pregnant you instantly fall in love, despite not knowing anything about your child. Well, she was right.

Highlights:

S and I took a crazy road trip from Orlando; up to Pine Mountain, GA; over to Nashville, TN; through the Blue Ridge Mountains; around to Asheville, NC; down to Charleston, SC; and then back home. We learned to like country music, swooned over waterfalls and mountains, ate a ton, saw friends, and bought a lot of records. (Ok, S bought a lot of records. I bought a book. Surprise!)

I enjoyed my job at the library more and more with each experience. Sure there are moments when patrons make me want to throw things, but those scenarios are quickly trumped by memories of a girl giggling over her first library card, a boy telling me he likes the books I pick out, my regular kid visitors who made me a bracelet because they like me, the grandmas from my book club shrieking over the baby news. One of our high school volunteers designed her own program, and we successfully put it on (and let me tell you, I couldn’t have been more proud). Summer Reading Program was a HUGE success with some events having more than 120 very happy children. My teen club, the nerdfighters, celebrated its one year anniversary, and they surprised me with a party and scrapbook that brought tears to my eyes. If starting the club, and bringing all of them together, was the best thing I ever did as a librarian, I’d be set.

Also…we bought a house! Yeah, S and I are homeowners which feels so adult (oddly more adult than having a kid.) We fix things and paint things and own a rake. It’s awesome, though, having this little house of our own. It’s ours to do as we please with (like paint the kitchen teal, which I might have done) and ours to love. And now, ours to create a little nursery in.

I turned 30. Scary. But kind of great, too.

Other Favorites

Movies: I think I saw a grand total of four movies in the cinema this year. Maybe more. I don’t know. I love watching movies, but I also get restless. And I hate being disappointed. So I don’t really have favorites of the year. I did really love Catching Fire and Frozen though. (The soundtrack of the latter may be on repeat at our home. S definitely does not want to build a snowman anymore.)

TV: During my first trimester, when all I wanted to do was sleep, I decided to check out Awkward because I love teenage melodrama (surprise surprise). I might have finished the first season in a weekend. And then the second. And then the third (as the last few episodes aired). So, yeah, you could say I’m a fan now. S & I together finally jumped on the Friday Night Lights bandwagon and I’m so glad we did (see: teenage melodrama). We might have just purchased the box set. Riggins! As for old favorites, I’m still highly in love with Mad Men and Parks and Recreation.

Plays: We saw Book of Mormon this year, and it was awesome. I love the songs (as awkward and awful as some are), the story, the whole moral. (Yes, there’s a moral!) It’s just a supremely well-done show, and I’m so happy it finally came to…ORLANDO!

Music: Let’s be honest, I haven’t updated my iPod since college. Aside from radio hits, the only *new* CD I checked out (aside from the aforementioned Frozen soundtrack and other various Broadway musicals) was Rkives by Rilo Kiley. A compilation of previously unreleased b-sides from a band I loved…in college. So I guess my music taste hasn’t changed much. But, man, that CD was great.

And, I suppose, that is it. There were downs, too, but I’d prefer to reflect on the ups, on the ways the year will be remembered. 2013 was great, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

And to you all, thank you so much for reading my blog, and going through these journeys with me. Your comments and likes make me smile. If I could hug you all, I would.

And so, until next year. Thanks for reading!

xo, Lauren

The Reality in Reality TV

I’ll admit it – I don’t watch reality TV. When I do watch TV, it’s scripted dramas like Mad Men and The Newsroom or teenage melodramas like Glee and Gossip Girl (I WILL make it to the end of the latter, even if its best days are over!) or comedies both S and I find funny like SNL and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That’s it. But if i’m alone, and mindlessly cleaning or putting my laundry away…I’ll drop by E! and see how the Kardashians are doing (because, let’s be honest, they’re always on).

For some reason, I find that family absolutely fascinating. To want to have everything documented. To basically create a life for TV. Of course the show isn’t extremely interesting, and most of the drama is self-provoked, but still. I’ll watch it every now and then. And I can see why it’s easy for younger girls to look up to them. They’re famous! They’re rich! They have hair Helen of Troy would envy! And I see why people mock them because, aside from owning a clothing store and Sears clothing line and occasionally modeling, they don’t do much.

But what I find really fascinating is when the magic of TV can’t fix everything. When the “reality” in “reality television” comes into play.

The season finale juxtaposed the birth of Kourtney’s second child, daughter Penelope, with Khloe’s inability to conceive a child. If this was a normal TV show, there would be an epilogue where Khloe pulls out a positive pregnancy test and everyone would cheer. But it isn’t. Something like that can’t be scripted. So the show ends with her on fertility treatments, and the blind hope that they’ll work. And still, today, she’s without a child.

And that’s what I find so incredibly fascinating. That even though you’re privileged, some things still can’t be changed. That wealth and celebrity and perfect hair can’t provide everything. That sometimes there is a sad ending, and producers can’t change that.

And I think it reminds me that celebrities sometimes have problems that aren’t self-inflicted. That there are things that are harder to overcome. That, okay, in a way, they are still kind of like us. And I hope the young girls who look up to them should remember that.

I hope Khloe uses her situation to be more. I hope she’s a real face women can see; someone who’s going through a problem that they might be facing as well. And, yes, I hope she gets her baby in the end.

Grey’s Anatomy Musical Episode

If there’s one thing Grey’s Anatomy is good at, it’s keeping the audience guessing. That was proved once again after last night’s musical episode.

If you’ve watched the show before, you’re more than likely familiar with its typical season: strong opening episode, lackluster following episodes that keep the viewer just interested enough, huge three-part middle of the season arc that definitely involves one of the main characters being hurt and more than likely has a crossover with Private Practice, lackluster following episodes that makes you almost want to quit watching the show, killer ending (literally, in the case of last season, where a good portion of the cast was killed off) that makes you sigh and realize that of course you’ll be watching it next season.

Right?

So last night, in attempts to hook the viewer once again, the creators threw in a spin – a musical episode. Now, other shows have done this before – most notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which did it extremely well – so it was nothing new. But for a doctor show, that relies so heavily on melodrama, it seemed almost forced. (Scrubs pulled it off because the show, while medical themed, was just kooky enough that it worked. It had heart, rather than cheese). This was, in this season’s case, its three episode arc. Even Addison showed up.

The story was simple: Callie was in a major car accident, which left her, and her unborn baby, in critical condition. The singing was in her head. Okay, that makes sense. More Chicago than Grease. This wasn’t, of course, the first time a character was in critical condition. I’m pretty sure every character, up to now, has been operated on. (Alex made a funny quip in the episode, calling the hospital Mercy Death.) Since I hadn’t heard of Sara Ramirez wanting to leave the show, (reason why T.R. Knight’s George was killed off) I assumed she would live. (Of course, most hilariously, Izzy wasn’t killed off, even after the hilarious ghost sex arc and the actresses constant bashing of the show, but I’m pretty sure it was because the creators just wanted to torture her some more).

The only reason I could see the creators thinking this was a good idea was because it would a) show off Sara Ramirez’s amazing singing ability (she is a Tony award winner, afterall), and b) bring viewership back. It succeeded in both. Ramirez sounded fantastic; the show had a major viewing boost. Not surprisingly.

Anyway, the episode was pretty simple when it came to plot, but very typical for the show. Full of emotion, most of the characters cried, there was a lot of intense staring, and quite a few frantic surgery scenes. All in all, the making of a normal episode. I’ll admit, I was teary eyed a few times. Then there was the singing.

So, Grey’s Anatomy has made quite a few songs popular. How to Save a Life hit radios hard after it was featured, and let’s not forget Chasing Cars after season two’s extremely emotional finale. (I admit it, I cried). This episode took all of those popular songs, and had the cast singing them.

Seriously.

Again, it was in Callie’s head, but I couldn’t help burst out into laughter when Owen started belting Chasing Cars while wheeling Callie’s gurney in. That was the problem. The songs took away the drama, and instead made it…comical. Extremely comical. The actors had to concentrate on looking like they were singing (I’m assuming they recorded the songs prior), rather than acting. And when dialogue came up between song lyrics – wow. It was just…weird. And don’t get me started on the odd scene when all the guys started seducing their girlfriends with song. Okay. (That said, why were there musical numbers when Callie wasn’t involved? She wasn’t in that scene; there shouldn’t have been a song since she wasn’t imagining it, right? I digress.)

As for the singing, everyone did fine. I mean, no one was horrible, so that was a plus. But when Callie’s dying on the gurney, I didn’t need a chorus of doctors in the background singing This is How We Operate.

What I’ve always liked about the show was its raw emotions. It always went there. This episode just fell incredibly flat. The singing didn’t add anything, as it does in musicals. It just took away what the show excelled at.

I guess I wasn’t disappointed, because I didn’t expect much. And even though it failed as an episode, it definitely did what it intended to do: got me, as well as many other people on my Twitter feed, to watch. And I must admit, I’ll probably watch the next episode, too.

See for yourself here