I'm always interested in the question: How do you know when a story is finished? My answer is that I usually know when a story is finished on a very visceral kinesthetic level--like seeing a toy train stop on the tracks because it's reached its destination. But people know in different ways. How do you know? Have you resolved the narrative? Has a character gone through an arc? Or, if you write flash fiction, does the language itself tell you "there is no more left?"
The question "is a story finished?" usually applies to the end of a story or novel. And in that sense, for me (and I hear a lot of writers say this) when a story is finished, there's a sense of having no more business with it. Recently, though, I began to think about the things that my characters did *during* the story---the lives they led, without regard to the plot, lives that perhaps were hinted at but not explicitly stated. Perhaps because my novel involved a panoply of characters I became aware that--in some strange and surreal sense---I could imagine them still going about their business, cuaght in various segments of time in the underground mine where they were held hostage. It became clear to me that they wrote each other letters--letters having nothing to do with the plot. And I began to write them.
I never have forced myself to write them. But now and then a letter occurs to me. Or perhaps I even think they allow me to to show it to a limited part of the world. In that sense, for this novel, the story is never finished. But it's what goes on in the middle of the story for me that contains teeming details.
What is it like for you?
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