Life Is Just A Party And Parties Aren’t Meant To Last

When I was putting together the stories that comprise Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts I wanted to include some kind of supplemental material from the world of Dracoheim. It seemed to fit the feel of the work, like the map at the beginning of the book. A kind of echo to Dragnet‘s “The story you are about to see is true…” opening.

I settled on an epilogue, a bit of a rundown on Erik Rugar as told by the Lord Mayor. As I was writing it I realized that it was important for the story that I close out Erik’s life–the epilogue is a eulogy, the mayor’s farewell to a loyal officer.

“Erik served me faithfully and well. He deserves to tell his story in his own words.”

This may seem like a spoiler, but it shouldn’t be. The entire theme of the story is that Erik is just a man, a fragile, fallible, mortal man. That’s my teaser pitch, that it’s hard to fight wizards and demons when all you have is a gun and a badge.

The whole issue jelled for me today when I received a message from a reviewer complaining (in a complementary way) that I had written into the book my intention not to write a sequel. Erik’s story, going against the modern trend, has an ending. 

That’s deliberate and intentional and I think the book is stronger for it.

I have talked before in this blog about my distaste for series fiction, and I think this is a big part of why.  Integral to the human condition is the quality of ephemerality. We are mortal, we experience time and change over time and we will, some day, die.

A character who is eternal is, in a very real sense, less than human.

And yes, I understand that a series of novels can easily take place over the course of a human lifespan. The actual time involved is not the issue. The narrative lifespan is the issue.

And now that I think about, I think this issue is connected, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on, to my other big pet peeve, the Personal Growth Character Arc. Maybe that’s a way to try to overcome the lack of mortality? A way to make a character relatable, to show that the protagonist is not entirely immune to ravages of time?

All human stories have an end, and the end is always the same.

The sun will rise tomorrow and you will not be here to see it. Your home will be empty, your steed will stand unmounted and your weapons will gather rust in the corner. Those who are left behind will take your mortal clay and put it into the ground, with mourning or thanksgiving, and it will not matter to you because you will not be here.

We, the readers, need not see that part of the story. But it must be assumed. There has to be a point at which the author says, either overtly or covertly, “This is the end, there is no more story to tell.” Without that the story is unfinished, it just stops when the author reaches a certain word count.

And and I think with the trend in the last few decades of series that go on forever–or at least as long as they keep selling–authors need to be fairly overt.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, Hard Weird, New Wave, On Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Life Is Just A Party And Parties Aren’t Meant To Last

  1. The Mixed GM says:

    It weakens stories when there is no clear ending in mind. There is a huge difference in writing a series of 48 novels with a clear story, than constantly tacking on more novels to an existing story. The first few may have been good, but the later ones WILL suffer.

    Nothing worse than telling someone about a series, “Books 1-3 are good, but forget Books 4-48 even exist”.

    I appreciated the fact that Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts had a clear ending for the character. Though I would not be opposed to more Dracoheim!

  2. wordwizardw says:

    This is an overt signal, all right. Yet someone ELSE might tell the story of how Erik met his end, or it might turn out that the Lord Mayor, despite what he wrote in the afterword, suppressed entire cases (or Erik didn’t give them all to him), which were found after The Lord Mayor’s defeat or death. Even dragons are not immortal.

    —Arthur Conan Doyle was persuaded to resurrect Sherlock Holmes due to reader demand—

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I’m not ruling out the possibility that, should a good story come to me, I might write a “lost” case of Erik Rugar. But his mortality and the fact that his experiences are finite is integral to the character.

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