Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing With Certainty - or Uncertainty

Pier Near San Diego, California

In a recent Facebook response to a question about short story endings, Nancy Pickard, author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning, said she likes open endings, likes the shock and surprise.

On the other hand, a recent book discussion group found the endings of stories in Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri to be unpleasantly abrupt.

Of course, there is no one answer to what a story ending "should" be. Much depends on the reader as well as the writer. It's like this pier near San Diego. Although I loved the way the water sparkled all around it, I had no desire to walk out on the long pier to the sheer drop and be enveloped in the sparkle. Too much like walking toward "the light." You know, the one seen near death. I would feel much better about it if the tide were in and a boat was approaching.

You can guess which way I lean on the open-ended position. I don't mind finishing the story in my mind, but I want a little something to look toward. Doesn't mean I'm right. Just means I am one reader, one writer.

Which way do you lean on this question? As a reader? As a writer? Think about it as you read. Think about it as you write. Let it inform your writing.


Would you walk out onto the pier pictured? What have you done in your life that has been a walk into something uncertain? Now write two endings. Spell out how the uncertain event was resolved. In another ending, leave part of the story for the reader to resolve.


Found this recipe on the Food Network when I clicked on Valentine's Day. The recipe is from Ellie Krieger of Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger. The recipe has only three ingredients, all favorites of mine; but even if you don't like one of the ingredients (we know you like chocolate so it would be either the almonds or cherries), it is a perfect Valentine's Day treat, is easy and makes only 12 candy clusters so they'll be all gone by February 15.

Cherry Almond Chocolate Clusters


1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped


In a medium bowl, toss together the almonds and the cherries. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Melt half the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over slightly simmering water, over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently. Make sure the water is not touching the top pan. Remove the double boiler from the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate. Remove the top pan with the chocolate in it, gently wipe the bottom of it and set it aside for a moment. Replace the simmering water in the bottom pan with warm tap water. Put the pan of melted chocolate on top of the warm water. This will keep the chocolate at the right temperature while you make the clusters.

Stir the fruit-nut mixture into the chocolate. Spoon out heaping tablespoon-sized clusters of the chocolate mixture onto the baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Put them in the refrigerator to set for 15 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature.

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