The End from the Beginning

There’s one thing every writer needs to master, and that is how to leave a lasting impression on readers—how to end their story. Should it be unresolved or ambiguous; unexpected or dramatic? As writers, we have plenty of options. So, you might ask, what worked for me in my latest novel? More on this to come, suffice to say that I changed the ending a few times, more or less in keeping with my editing and having more time to review it. In the end (pun intended), I changed the ending to tie up a loose end near the beginning. I could tell you more, but that would be giving the plot away. OK, here’s a glimpse of the beginning of the final chapter:

Chapter 86

“It’s a perfect evening,” I exclaim, easing the genoa. A puff of wind fills the sail and it swings out to leeward, clipping the waves. As we heel, the view of Dubrovnik widens. The walls are bathed in orange and the sea is dotted with boats making their way home. Our bow rises with the breeze, slicing through the swells. Beside me, Rian is a seasoned sailor behind the wheel—happy, tanned and in control, and Chloé sits opposite with her hand in the foam. Like her hair, the moment is golden.

“Does this yacht have a name?” She asks Rian.

He pulls the tiller to bear away into the harbor and replies, “Serendip.”

I smile. It’s the old Persian name for Sri Lanka. My mind races back to the tea estate in Kandy and I see Ravi again, serving us high tea on the manicured lawn in colonial fashion while the sun fades behind Adam’s Peak at the end of a day just like this. My memory is on fire as the sun punches into the ocean.

“Can you tie the bow line please, Chris?” Rian asks as we drop sail and motor past St. John Fort.

“Roger that.” I leap ashore, securing fore and aft ropes, and follow Rian along the boardwalk. He winds his way between a crowd, their faces washed in red as they enjoy the sunset. Girls pose for their lovers and lonely hearts watch their fishing lines bob above the tide. The fish aren’t biting, but tourists are as they flock to a choice of restaurants.

Keep it Real

Here’s the best advice that helps my writing: I need to review it regularly: “Be myself and be authentic. Don’t try to put on a voice that isn’t my own. Keep my characters genuine and real. Readers will pick up if I’m lying, and they will put my book down. Keep my writing simple and keep it honest.”

I have a trusted reader and, about a week ago, sent her a chapter from my new book to review. Her comment was, “Your (female) character is not real. She would not think or act like that.” When I re-read the chapter, I had to agree. The main problem was that I was being over-descriptive and it ruined the authenticity of the setting. I was over-eager in my writing and, by adding more words, I destroyed it.

Great and Terrible Writing Tips

I enjoyed this short video on writing tips (both good and bad) from Jericho Writers. This one stood out for me:
Why did this tip seem such a good one? It’s simple. Your writing should include YOU—your experiences, your heart and soul; the beat of your own drum. When I was editing my second novel, this became so important that it caused me to rewrite my characters to include the leadership conflict I had experienced in my own career. And, as a result, the book gained more power and a sense of poignancy that made it real. At least, I hope it did! So, take Franz Kafka’s words of wisdom to heart and write from your heart.

When to Introduce Your Main Characters?

A good question. When is the best time to introduce your main characters in your novel? I made a big mistake on this in my second novel—the draft did not feature the main character (the protagonist) and antagonist until later in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. When I reworked the script to have these characters appear in Chapter 1, along with a strong hint of the conflict between them, it produced better tension and moved the plot along with more pace.
Definitions (from here):


The definition of a protagonist is basically “the main character”. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

“A protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning “player of the first part, chief actor”) is the main character in any story, such as a literary work or drama. The protagonist is at the center of the story, makes the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions.”


The Wikipedia definition of antagonist is the following:

An antagonist is a character whose motivations, goals, desires or opinions are opposed to those of the protagonist.

The important aspect in this alternative definition is the lack of hostility. Remember, I am in favor of tension to drive a story, but not in favor of (instant) trouble. Hope this helps your writing; it sure helped mine!


Avoid Author Blues by having no fixed timeframe to find your literary agent

During the Vietnam War, POWs who said, “We will be out by Christmas” were more likely to suffer from severe depression than those who said (or thought) “We will get out sometime.” Now, as a writer, it can be a long time before you land a suitable literary agent. The moral? Don’t expect to find the right one in a specific timeframe. Just spend quality time to find the one who suits you, your book, and your future writing career. Good advice from the Vets.

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