Ending on the Right Note

Where you end decides where your audience begins.

It was recently brought to my attention (by my own mother, strangely enough) that certain endings sit well with some people, and sit terribly with others.

music noteMy mother, brother and I were sitting at Qdoba, eating our burritos and discussing what movie my brother should watch with his friends that night. He said that one of his friends liked sappy romances, and I said that Fault in Our Stars would be a good choice.

(Hey, I don’t watch romantic movies much and I thought it was pretty good when I saw it, though the book was definitely better.)

I was immediately met with this almost disgusted look on my mother’s face. I asked what was wrong, and she responded, “doesn’t that movie end in a sad way?”

I nodded. “Yeah, it ends on a pretty sad note. Why does that matter?”

She shook her head and said, “I just don’t like movies that end in sad ways. I mean, come on! It’s the ending. It should be happy!”

I stared at her a bit, then burst out laughing. She asked me what I was laughing about, so I told her, “If I ever publish a book, do not read it. You will hate it. There is rarely a time when I end anything I write on a happy note. Every novel I’ve planned ends on a bittersweet note at best. You would hate me as an author.”

She changed the subject immediately.

you are my sunshine (2)


That little anecdote should be enough to tell you what I’m getting at. Certain people like certain endings. Others like something entirely different. There’s no way to make everyone happy.

So, what ending should you go with?

That… Is entirely up to you.

That’s the honest truth. I can’t tell you what to write or what ending is best. I can tell you that I love those bittersweet endings that leave you with something to think about, but that doesn’t mean that those endings are the best. They’re just one type of ending that some people like.

What’s that? You’re wondering what all the different types of endings are?

Refer to the following image.

baymax

That, my friends.

That is how you separate all the different types of endings.

I know, I know. I always have the best answers.

There really isn’t anything else for me to say. How you end your piece of writing is entirely up to you and your style. I can’t tell you what ways are the best and what ways are the worst. It all depends on you.

The best advice I can give you is to end your piece of writing in a way that reflects everything you’ve been building up to that point.

….. What?

Still stuck?

If you still have no idea how to end your piece of writing, think about the following questions:

  • What sort of tone have you been creating over the course of your writing?
  • What has happened to your character(s) over the course of your writing?
  • And most importantly, what ending would most interest you?

Note: I did not say to think about what ending you would most want to read. Everyone wants a happy ending, but a happy ending isn’t always the most interesting. You need to think about what ending would most interest you, what ending would keep you thinking about the book days or even weeks later.

Now, seriously, there isn’t really anything else I can say on this topic. Only you can know what the best way to end your writing is.

Until next time!

P.S. The stanza up there is the last stanza of a common lullaby-type song. If you comment what song it’s from, you get a cookie!


Picture sources: abcnotation

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The Mystery of the Semicolon

The semicolon.

A device that stumps even the most experinced of writers.

Some fear it; others see it as a challenge.

I am an example of the latter.

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I’ll go ahead and admit it: semicolons can be tricky. There’s a valid reason as to why writers tend to stay away from them. However, their reasoning isn’t that semicolons themselves are tricky; it’s that differentiating the semicolon from the regular colon and comma is tricky.

Already confused? Don’t worry, this entire post will be focused on breaking it down for you.

To start off, you should know that—unlike most of the punctuation out there—there isn’t ever really a time when semicolons are necessary. I mean, you’ve probably gone your entire life thus far without using a semicolon. That’s kind of proof enough that it isn’t necessary. However, there are a three reasons as to why you should use a semicolon:

  1. When a sentence calls for a semicolon, you can’t replace it with some other punctuation. Semicolons are unique, and it just won’t work (or work as well). You could always change the sentence so that it doesn’t need a semicolon… but you’d still need to understand the semicolon to do that.
  2. Semicolons can be very poetic. I’m not saying they’re always poetic or necessary in writing poetry, but they can definitely expand the possibilities of your writing and style,
  3. Your teachers will be impressed. Seriously. How many people in the world do you think know how to properly use a semicolon? The only people I know with that knowledge are top English students or English teachers. My parents are brilliant, and even they have no clue!

If you still don’t care to know how to use semicolons…

… Why are you still here?

imageSeriously, this entire post is about using semicolons. Nothing else. If you don’t want to know about semicolons, you’re wasting your time.

… Still with me?

Then let’s get started.

The Basics

Now, as I stated before, there’s never really a time when semicolons are necessary. Therefore, there are never times when you should use semicolons, only times when you can use semicolons.

You’ve already seen two examples of when you can use semicolons earlier in this post. The second example follows slightly more complex guidelines than the first, but all semicolon usage follows the same basic rule:

  • Use a semicolon to combine two clauses that otherwise could have been two separate sentences.

This is a pretty easy rule to understand. Remember the first sentence I used in the introduction:

Some fear it; others see it as a challenge.

Pretty basic. And thinking about the overall rule I just gave you, you can probably see it as two separate sentences as well:

Some fear it. Others see it as a challenge.

Notice that the two separate sentences are grammatically correct on their own. This is important. The rule does not apply if the sentences are not complete. If they aren’t complete, you most likely have to use a different type of punctuation entirely.

You may be thinking, can’t I just use a comma? For this example in particular, yes, you could. However, notice the difference in how the sentence reads when a comma is used:

Some fear it, while others see it as a challenge.

It doesn’t have the same impact when a comma is used. This is why I say that semicolons can be poetic. The semicolon can make two basic sentences seem much more important than they really are.

Got It? Let’s Get a Bit More Complex.

The second example I used earlier follows the same basic idea. However, when you read the two combined sentences separately, you’ll notice something slightly peculiar:

However, their reasoning isn’t that semicolons themselves are tricky; it’s that differentiating the semicolon from the regular colon and comma is tricky.

However, their reasoning isn’t that semicolons themselves are tricky. It’s that differentiating the semicolon from the regular colon and comma is tricky.

It’s a bit hard to catch, but the sentences look and even sound a bit awkward when they’re separated. They’re meant to be connected and don’t sound quite right when they aren’t.

This is where semicolons get tricky. Some people consider this a proper use of the semicolon; some do not. It’s a matter of preference. My opinion is that it works, but if your teacher says it doesn’t, don’t test them. It’s not worth it.

When Not to Use a Semicolon

Semicolons do not replace commas!!! This is the biggest mistake people make when trying to use semicolons. In some cases, commas can replace semicolons, but the relationship only goes one way.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

Correct: They fought hard, but all was for naught.

Incorrect: They fought hard; but all was for naught.

And another:

Correct: Though she loved him, she couldn’t marry him.

Incorrect: Though she loved him; she couldn’t marry him.

And another:

Correct: She loved to dance, so she did.

Incorrect: She loved to dance; so she did.

And one more, just to clarify:

Correct: Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.

Incorrect:

image

DO NOT REPLACE COMMAS WITH SEMICOLONS. IT DOES NOT WORK.

That being said, commas aren’t the only punctuation commonly replaced with semicolons. People replace colons with semicolons as well, and I’ve even seen hyphens replaced with semicolons.

There’s an easy way to not make these mistakes:

  • Check to make sure no other punctuation works before testing the semicolon.

If no other punctuation works, then maybe a semicolon will. However, check all other forms of punctuation first.

If you’re still not confident that you know how to use a semicolon, check out this guide at GrammarBook.com. I used it to double check myself when I was writing this. It’s short, sweet, and very helpful.

Let me know what other grammar/writing rules you need help with! I’ll try to get to most things eventually, but if you need some help with something in particular, I’ll work on it immediately!


Picture sources: From the Write Angle

Simple Writing

Grammar-Monster.com

Write What Wants to be Written

Don’t force the words. Let them be what they want to be.

I know what you’re thinking. The title of this post sounds like a crazy hippie proverb.

Well… You aren’t wrong.

I mean, who would be crazy enough to talk about words like they’re some sort of living entity? What sane person would argue that the writer doesn’t control the writing, but rather the writing controls the writer? Who could even begin to debate the fact that words have a mind of their own?

Oh, wait.

That would be me.

Blank notepad over laptop and coffee cup

Don’t worry, I’m not actually insane (well, not officially). My argument does, in fact, make sense, and I’m not trying to say anything too crazy or far-fetched.

What I’m trying to say is, you can’t force the words to be one thing when they want to be another.

Confused? How about an example from my writing:

I just posted a poem of mine called “Imagine.” I already wrote most of what I’m about to say about it in the note at the bottom, but I’m going to guess that you probably didn’t read it. If you did, you’re awesome! A+ for you! If you didn’t, don’t worry. I’m going to restate it anyway.

Before I started writing the poem, I had already thought about what I wanted to write to an extent. It seemed pretty obvious. A world without color. Defintiely a bad idea.

But as I was writing the poem, I found myself writing about the opposite. I tried writing my original idea, but my mind refused to give me the words. If you’ve ever fought with your own mind before, you know exactly how it felt.

If you haven’t, let me tell you, it is not fun.

I take pride in the fact that I am an exceedingly stubborn person, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s not worth it to fight against your own mind. So I gave in and wrote what wanted to be written.

The results were better than I ever could have imagined.

I know, I know! Sometimes you have to write about something specific or write in a particular format, usually for a class or a project. I get it. I’ve gone through that. But even then, this rule applies.

In a situation where you’re required to write a certain thing or in a certain format, great. Write it the way you’re supposed to. But at some point—while you’re writing, when you reach major checkpoints, even when you complete your first draft—read through the whole piece. This is important: you need to look at the piece as a whole to see if and where things fit. Otherwise, your final draft will sound disconnected.

As you read, delete everything that doesn’t seem right. Even if it’s well-written and presents a good point, get rid of it. Be very picky. If you question something, try changing the wording before you get rid of it. If it’s a larger section that you spent a lot of time on, you can always copy it to a different document and go back to it later. Just don’t cling to anything.

If you only end up with one well-thought-out point, that’s fine. Try to find a way to split it up into more points and expand on it. Then continue the process from above.

I know that’s a lot to take in, so here are the two key points you should take away from this:

  1. Always choose quality over quantity. Don’t just throw in facts and words because they sound smart. They’ll sound quite a bit less intelligent in the end. Stick to what actually sounds and feels right. Bonus: It’ll also flow better in the end if you stick to quality!
  2. Trust your instincts. Sure, they might guide you wrong sometimes, but usually they’re right. The more you trust, the more you’ll listen, and the better everything will turn out in the end!

Picture source: Ivoh