We didn’t get allowances. My mom was not a fan. We were offered rewards for jobs well done. Get an A in spelling–sigh, always a long shot for me. Or help a neighbor. The point was we had to earn the reward. The rewards were rarely cash. It was more like a trip to the doll show in LA. Or maybe ice cream at CC Browns near Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Now they did ice cream…I remember their peach melba…sigh, I digress…
After college when I earned dollars but lived at home, dad collected $25. per month. He said it was for my room and board. Later I found out he had started a brokerage account for me and was investing it. Nice dad! Let me take a trip to Europe for 6 months…very nice dad!
Earning was always a part of success. I earned a high school diploma that let me earn a college degree and had better jobs available to me than if I didn’t have one.
I earned an MBA and had even better jobs available to me. I earned promotions to better jobs. Those better jobs helped me to earn more money. Money, which I cheerfully saved [at least in part] or invested helped me earn a return on my money. By my earnings I was able to do many of the things I wanted to do. Interest Earned may be one of my favorite financial statements.
Earlier this year I sat in on a presentation by John Claude Bemis who not only writes wonderful stories using beautiful prose, but also teaches writing. In his presentation John used two terms: transformation and earned. Both these terms resonated for me.
Editors and agents are always counseling to ‘show’ that your character has changed since the start of the story. There are lots of characters that don’t change. In children’s lit FANCY NANCY, AMELIA BEDELIA to name just two. In adult stories, Jack Reacher comes to mind first. And change is hard.
Transformation can be more discrete and yet, still flashy. I can remember distinctly, as a kid, when I was first able to speak in terms of weeks passing by, then months, and then Wow, years. It was a way to experience growing up. I think of transformation as gradual. I think we experience an awareness of change more often than wide-eyed change.
Editors and agents also talk about ‘good’ endings. Don’t end without tying up loose ends. Don’t end with the start of another story. For me, an unsatisfying ending turns me off.
So I really liked the other concept John used which was earned, as in the ending should be earned. What a substantial way to identify that the writer did the work of taking the story through all the twists and turns to a solid believable ending. I read a lot of fantasy as a kid and young adult and I did hate it when the magic or someone else solved the problem. But when the MC figured out how to get the magic to solve the problem, that was cool.
But what does that mean, to earn it? How do you show that the ending is the right one, that the main character earned the ending. And, for me, it’s when the story arc completes the want or need of the main character.
I recently wrote an adult short story about a retired CIA assassin who has the neighbor from hell moving in behind her house. This story is under fifteen hundred words starting out with the actions of the neighbor blowing a police whistle that causes migraine headaches for the homeowner.
I’d been writing this story for months and the ending eluded me, it was not a satisfying ending. And just before I posted THE WHISTLE for a critique, I realized that I had not done was ‘explain’ the whistle, why was the whistle almost a character in the story. And I must have rewritten that ending fifteen times, until one night, or morning, at 2AM, my eyes popped open and I got it. The next moreing I rewrote the ending making sure the whistle was a definite part of the end.
The various comments from the group were excellent. I was able to edit and revise. I think it is a very strong story to submit now for publication.
But it was when I read what one reviewer wrote, I could not stop grinning.
An interesting story. I like the way you twisted the plot and surprised us. ☺️ You earned the ending, too.
Bonus and reward!