Tuesday, May 31, 2011

But Stories Need to End

My last post discussed story endings in the perspective of a reader and fan. From a fan perspective, an ending can be sad because there will be no more moments of the characters.

From a storyteller's perspective, when does a story reach its ending? A story can have multiple drafts, but when are the edits final?

I have some fine artist friends who laugh when asked if they finished a painting. All forms of art can be revised.  If a writer or artist takes a break from his work, then he may spot a flaw or solution missed beforehand. However, if the creator seeks perfection for his work, then it will never be finished.

The novel The Loser by Thomas Bernhard is about a musical genius (real-life musician Glenn Gould) who sought perfection. He even dies at the piano (happened in the book but not in real life), which the narrator thought was fitting. Although one character is labeled as the loser, the reader is left to question if the other characters found success.

Glenn Gould

If you are interested in reading The Loser...
I have to warn you that the novel has no chapters or paragraphs. The prose is one body of work, and is a stream of consciousness on the history of three musicians who sought fame. The narrator repeats moments, and you will find that he changes his attitude about the moment according to his feelings.

For instance, he says he idolized his friend Glenn Gould, but then later the narrator mentions the same memory with dislike for the man who reached a higher level.  The shift in attitude after new information is revealed or admitted information is realistic and humorous, but the repetition and streaming prose can give you a headache.  You, the reader, have to be ready and have the will to stop.  Otherwise you will be overwhelmed. Perhaps the author Bernard intended the reader to share the feeling of no end with the characters.

The narrator also seeks perfection for a book. He is never satisfied with a draft, and he never creates a whole work. Because the draft is unaccepted, he destroys it and starts fresh.  He doesn't allow himself to improve and develop his skills. A story has to reach an ending for the creator to review the work as a whole and make edits for the good of the whole.

Authors have been embarrassed to read one of their previously published works because mistakes even in the plot were missed or the author felt that the work could have been stronger.  But these authors chose a point to stop and publish their work.  They allowed themselves to move on to other challenging projects or the next installment.  

A character from a TV show develops over a series of episodes instead of learning all the lessons from just one episode. 

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