When I was going to college, I took a fiction writing class. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoy writing, so it was kind of a treat. At the time, I was considering changing my major to become an English major and so I was experimenting to see how I liked those kind of classes.
We would all write short stories and then we would take turns as a class reading each person's story and analyzing it. You weren't allowed to talk when your story was being analyzed, but you could listen and see people's reaction to your story.
I learned a lot in that class. However, one thing sticks out in my memory.
At the class's beginning, everyone's stories were completely different. Some weren't very well-written, true, but they were creative and original. However, as the class progressed, I began to see something very interesting happen. Trying to get a reaction out of their audience, characters in the stories began to die. It was a slow thing at first. A character death here, someone's reaction to it there, but it spread through the class like a plague.
After two-thirds of the semester was over, everyone's stories were ending in death. It was an incredible change. Soon, it was a surprise if someone's story didn't end with someone dying. Reading back on some of those short stories that I wrote during that time, I was a little surprised by how dark they were. I don't think I would even think about writing some of them now.
Finally, at one point, I wrote a story just to stir things up. Out of all the stories I wrote that year, this one wasn't my favorite, but my teacher LOVED it.
Here's the story:
The Truth About Age
The old woman hobbles slowly down the path, a bag in one hand, a cane in the other. Her legs are bowed and she is bent nearly double with pain as she makes her way to a small gate. Her wrinkled face is creased with sadness and she stumbles now and again against rocks on the uneven path.
As she reaches the gate, she slowly lifts her weary head only to find a young man there. He smiles gently and opens the gate for her.
“Would you like me to take your bag?” he asks kindly.
The old woman, surprised, is silent for a moment and then speaks in a voice worn with age, “I would be most grateful, young man.”
He quickly takes her bag and extends an arm. The age-old sadness begins to slip from her face as she gratefully takes the proffered hand. Slowly, sorrowful wrinkles begin to transform into gentle laugh lines.
They walk in silence for several minutes. Once they reach her destination, the young man graciously hold open the door.
He nods his head to her slightly as she takes her bag back and he gently smiles a final time.
“Have a good day,” he says, and disappears down the street.
The woman, no longer bent with age, continues to smile as she walks into the store. Energy seems to fill her small frame and she glides more quickly, only using her cane slightly. Time slowly fades, and wrinkles are made smooth.
It was a very positive and uplifting story. I was trying to convey the message that as we help those around us, they can feel younger. It was very different from the suicide and other depressing stories that we all were turning out at that point. It was interesting to me to see the positive reaction to my story. As humans, sometimes we're so busy trying to get an emotional reaction and trying to be stunning that we don't realize that we're stopped being stunning and have become the same.
When The Ring came out, most horror movies had happy endings, or at least resolutions. However, since then, most scary movies seem to just be getting darker and creepier without resolution. At the time, it was original, now my siblings don't even think its all that scary.
When Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, fantasy wasn't even a genre. There was simply fiction and nonfiction. When The Hobbit came out, these stories were still being called Fairy Tales. Now it seems that you can find elements of Tolkien's books in nearly every fantasy.
I enjoy it when books surprise me. However, as I work at writing my own stories I wonder if they're too predictable. Do my stories have events in it that are just intended for 'shock-value'? Or do they have surprises that are surprising because we really couldn't see them coming? The best authors even include clues, but the readers mind either misses those clues or assumes that they are leading to something else.
In our own lives, do we follow the crowd? Are we inclined to do things for the shock value? Or are we going to do uplifting and positive things that will surprise others because they are different from the way society is doing things. Like the young man in my story, are we helping others to throw off their troubles or are we causing them more pain?
Are there any original endings left? Yes. However, it is up to each of us to find our own. I can't live my life the same as any other person, and I shouldn't try. I'm someone different. I want to do what's right, and that means I have to find my own path. Each of us has a completely different story from everyone else. We have different backgrounds, different motivations, and different goals. As we discover that story, we can choose whether we are a good or bad influence in the lives of those around us. We can choose how we affect their stories.
And at the end, everyone will have their own original ending. However, what happens and whose with us when the time comes is really up to each of us.