Beyond Its Ending I Imagine Nothing

Posted on 28 April 2011

When you finish a piece of fiction, does the story continue on in your mind? Or does your imagining — of the character, the story, the events — end when the piece ends?

I’m not quite sure how this would apply if you write memoir, but feel free to enlighten me.

Miroslav Penkov’s short story “A Picture With Yuki” appears in issue #148 of One Story. The entire story is available only in the print version, but you can read an excerpt, as well as an interview with Miroslav, here.

In the interview, he says this about his characters’ futures:

I’d like to think that the narrator and Yuki will get pregnant; that, despite everything else, they will be healthy and happy together, a healthy and happy family. And yet, a heaviness settles in my stomach if I think too much about what awaits them. To find out, I’ll either have to start writing their story anew or admit that my guess is as good as anyone’s. So I do with this story as I do with most other stories I write: beyond its ending I imagine nothing.

I have to agree with Miroslav, at least when it comes to my short fiction: When the story is over, I imagine nothing for my characters. I might have a very broad sense of where they’re going or what might happen, but that’s it.

With my current novel-in-progress, meanwhile, it’s a little easier to think about the future for my protagonist. It’s not by any means a detailed picture, but I’m aware of some basic things that are in store for her.

What about you? Do you imagine nothing or something? Or everything?

Photo: Java Tarsis

 


9 responses to Beyond Its Ending I Imagine Nothing

  • lisahgolden says:

    I hadn’t really made the contrast between short stories and my novel WIP, but it’s true. When the short story is finished, I’m finished with it. Except for one I started titled Libertyland. That still has more to come. It may morph into a novel or novelette. What’s the technical difference? (must google).

    But as I’ve been working through revisions on my WIP, I’ve already started to think about what comes next for these characters.

  • Lyra says:

    The story keeps going. I had never thought about it until I read this and it definitely does. I wonder if that is part of my problem, and the reason it keeps getting bigger, and bigger and bigger…

  • Averil says:

    I imagine everything, and I always envision the death of each character. I think a person’s manner of death is often as telling as the life that preceded it, so for me the story is not complete until the characters die (in my mind).

  • Deb says:

    Funny, I keep imagining what preceded the story I’m telling but not what comes after. This may not be accurate though, considering I rubbed out entire chapters of the protagonist as an old lady.

  • Paul says:

    My experience has been varied. The other day I could not remember the name of one of the key characters in my novel. (It eventually came to me: Irene.) In other cases, I continue to imagine the progress of the story or characters and cringe at the opportunities I missed. Sometimes a story I’ve given up as impossible will resurface years later with a perfect resolution for me to write finally.

    By and large, though, when I’m finished with a story, I walk away.

  • Interesting thoughts, but I’m with Deb on this. I tend to fixate more on the possible prologue to the story I just wrote. Not sure why that is, except I tend to be the nostalgic type, and maybe I want to think about my characters’ past more than their future…

  • cougel says:

    If it’s fiction, at least for me, it’s over if the ending feels right. If it’s “clicked into place” then other imagined paths don’t come to me.

  • cougel says:

    Just listening to E.L Doctorow being interviewed. He was asked “How do you know when you’re finished?” He said there is an “emotional welling up… where you run through the house screaming ‘I finished I finished!’.. and then the next day you realize, No I’m not.” He said as a writer you “live between the sentences…” When you finish, it is relief. And you don’t see that the ending is near until it comes upon you. Fascinating!

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