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Alternative Endings

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Before the unfortunate discovery of the American tourist murdered in Istanbul, my daughter told me how an American woman had recently gone missing in Istanbul. She wasn’t in a bad neighborhood. She’d been traveling in Europe for a period of time. She was married, although her family wasn’t traveling with her.  Then my daughter, who’s not a writer, said, “Unfortunately, she’s probably dead, but you can’t help but wonder if she engineered her own disappearance for some reason.”

Visions of Sleeping with the Enemy popped into my head, followed by strange spy scenarios. I could see my daughter’s mind running in the same direction. I think it’s hardwired into our genes. Perhaps it’s just a wish that things could end happily all the time when reality doesn’t give us that option. We’re writers (my daughter doesn’t know she is, yet) and as writers we see endings and plot complications and character arcs beyond what happens in real life.

I once followed a car down a two lane road where the other car’s trunk was leaning badly to one side. I decided it was because of the weight 0f the body in the trunk. When he pulled off and got out to open his trunk, I wondered if he would be surprised to find the body there. Actually, he was getting a flat tire, and the only thing he wanted to find in his trunk was the spare and the jack. On the other hand, I knew what the deceased looked like and how he had come to be in the trunk of the car. My reality may not be real, but it sure is exciting.

When writing, I sometimes have to bend time and accuracy to give my story more thrills. For instance, Operation Sea Lion was Hitler’s plan to invade England, devised in 1939 and 1940. What if it had been planned two years previously, and a copy was stolen and smuggled into England? The possibilities for mayhem are endless.

There are hundreds of real apps for mobile phones. What if Cupid devised an app that gave the coordinates for the person you were to spend your life with? No name, no identifying features, just the closest intersection to where they were at that moment. Can you imagine the confusion this could cause in a romantic comedy for Valentine’s Day?

Authors have written such stories as “If the South had won the Civil War” and other alternative history. Steampunk is set in a technologically advanced Victorian world. Dan Brown’s tales tend to take a piece of history and move it into the present day with startling results.

Taking what is (or was) and changing that reality is something writers do instinctively and almost without realizing it. It’s part of the creative process.

You know you’re a writer if: Have you ever been to a movie and afterwards needed to rewrite the ending?

Overheard a conversation and created an entire scenario around it?

Seen someone in a crowd and thought, “That person would make an interesting character  in a story?”

I know you’ve had some of these same experiences, or you have imagined a better ending to an event than what happened in real life. Please share them with us.

31 Responses to “Alternative Endings”

  1. Cia Paul says:

    Kate, I love the cupid app!!! Hope you’ve started the story.

  2. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Kate, I think about your good friend and neighbor, Nicholas Sparks—and just want to rewrite the ending to every book/movie he’s ever written. I like his voice just fine, but I had to stop reading him.

    Maybe we need to create a new author, Nicole Sparkles, who writes his stories with happy endings.

  3. Diana Layne says:

    Ha, love the idea of a Cupid App…you oughta write that. For me, it’s the ending of Titanic. Hate it, would totally redo it.

    • Kate Parker says:

      What if the radio operator on that nearby ship had stayed up that night listening to broadcasts? Think of the heroic rescues that could have been performed and written about one hundred years later.

  4. Sometimes my mind whirls with all the possibilities. I’m so glad I have other writers who understand that. LOL

  5. Kate, this post is so all about me. :) Every unhappy ending I’ve ever read or seen in a movie has been changed in my mind. The one that stands out most in my mind is Castaway. Not that it didn’t have a hopeful ending, but I wanted the hero and heroine to get back together. The companion book to The Memory of You that I’m currently working on is kind of a retelling of Castaway with a happy ending.

    My soldier has been MIA for six years and comes home to discover his wife has had a child, fathered by his best friend, who she planned to marry as soon as the hero was declared dead.

  6. Kim Law says:

    Here’s my story to what I thought was going to be MY ending! I was out in Scottsdale for a work confernce a few years back, and me being me, I like to see new things and new places. So one afternoon I took my rental and headed east, checking out the towns I drove through, immensely enjoying my time and the sights. I found lots of really cool things. But then I headed up this mountainside to see some body of water, I think, that someone had told me was pretty. By the time I get up there, it’s dark, and I can’t really see anything. And the road had been all curvy and hilly all the way up, with no places at all to turn off.

    I turned around in the deserted pull off area at the spot I’d been heading to see, and when I got back on the road, there’s headlight right on my tail. NO DEA WHERE THEY CAME FROM. All I could figure was the car had been parked in the deserted lot with their lights off, waiting for an out-of-town sucker to come driving by.

    I wasn’t too freaked yet, but they were right on my bumper. I tried going the speed limit (down the curvy hill that was now pitch dark and had no guard rails!!!) but they kept staying on my tail. So I slowed down, thinking maybe they’d pass me. They slowed down with me and backed off. I sped back up, they got back on my tail.

    Then they started acting like they were going to pass me, going about halfway over the line (at this time I’m now going over the speed limit), but I suddenly just KNOW that if they pass me (oh wait…and I have literally seen no other car the whole time I’ve been on this road, up or down the hill)…so I KNOW that if they pass me, they’re either going to sideswipe me off the damn mountain, or they’re going to get in front of me and stop the car across the road, and do who knows what to me.

    At this point I’m flying down the dark, curvy, hilly road, terrified, and then I realize not a soul in the world knows where I am. And I’m about to die at the hands of some freak who probably just saw the rental sticker on my car and figrued I’d be a good one to kill. Whether they sideswipe me or torture me first, they’re going to push me off that mountain. I just know it. And NO ONE KNOWS WHERE I AM!! I pull out my phone.

    You guessed it. No cell service.

    I’m seriously terrified at this point, people. I honest to God believed they were going to kill me. (I’m still not sure they’re weren’t.)

    I finally get enough signal to just barely call home. I quickly tell my husband where I am, in case he never hears from me again, and that a crazy person is trying to push me off a mountain. And then I lose signal.

    I finally reach the bottom of that mountain, see the little town, and come barreling through at about 75 (I think it was a 35 mph zone), just begging a cop to pull me over. The car behind me is still right on my tail.

    I get to the turn that’ll eventually take me back to Scottsdale, and make the turn, and the car behind me goes straight.

    OH MY GOD!!!!

    I finally get myself calmed down enough to once again call home and report in that I’m still alive, and then I didn’t go out exploring (especially not up on deserted mountain sides) on that trip again. And I don’t think I’ve gone exploring without telling anyone where I am ever again. Because OMG, I would hate to get killed and dumped somewhere when I’m not even close to where I’m supposed to be! They may never find me and I’ll be there, dead and alone, forever. With buzzards picking out my eyes.

    But was the person/people in the car really going to hurt me? Kill me? Who knows. Probably not, but I WAS CONVINCED of it at the time. CONVINCED!!!! I’m still about 60% convinced of it today :)

    Sometimes I do not love my imagination.

    • Kim Law says:

      Sorry…I wrote a book instead of a comment… :)

    • Rita Henuber says:

      I think you were very lucky.

    • Kate Parker says:

      Oh, Kim, you were right to run. How scary. That wasn’t imagination, that was real.

      I’m the kind who would be up there with a dozen people at high noon imagining what would happen if I were alone up there at night. You were brave enough to try to see the sights on your own.

      • Kim Law says:

        It was probably more like stupidity to see the sights alone.

        Maybe the person wasn’t going to do me harm, but they were definitely screwing with me! I do figure my imagination made it a little worse, but their actions were making no sense at all to me.

        • Debbie says:

          And Kim’s story is the reason I don’t like going to places alone. If I have to go out in a gruesome ending I want witnesses, justice, or an opportunity to write a kicka** fight scene.

          And an overactive imagination is why I don’t write horror. I think I could scare myself crazy before I could get wrestle what my mind creates onto the page. All I need is a germ of an idea and I have full-blown plague on my hands.

  7. Addison Fox says:

    Kate:

    What a wonderful post!!! And you SO HAVE TO DO THE CUPID STORY!!!!! It’s awesome!

    Addison

    • Kate Parker says:

      No, the cupid story would be much better in the hands of someone who can write funny and hectic. No matter what I start with, I end up with bodies in the middle of it. Makes for a terrible cupid tale!

  8. Anita Hayes says:

    Great post. For me I am a people watcher. The hard part is incorporating them into a story line. Creating a character takes a lot of perseverance, at least for me.There are so many facets to each one. Love the idea of the Valentine app. My mind wanders quite often with other things but never the apps..though have thought of using Siri from the Iphone in a story. My son was playing around with his and her answers were hilarious, we were laughing hours later.I don’t rewrite endings in my head but I do catch all the car mistakes (car crashes, whole ass end is smashed and next scene just has a dent or starts out with one type of tires and changes them mid scene…that type of stuff). All these posts are great for sparking the imagination..Keep it up, I am learning lots. Thanks

  9. Vivi Andrews says:

    I rewrite movies in my head all the time – not just the endings. I’ll fix the opening or remove characters or whatever else is necessary to get it up to snuff. :) My imagination doesn’t tend to run away with me in real life though – I have a pretty strong delineation between life and fiction. Interesting post, Kate.

    • Kate Parker says:

      I think my imagination tends to run away with me when I’m bored. I’m always creating stories in my head while doing the housework. Is there anything more boring than housework? But I’ve never completely redone a movie, Vivi. That shows a great imagination.

  10. Rita Henuber says:

    I rewrite movies not so much books. I have four children who were off the charts hyper, active, hyperactive, what ever you want to call it. They had to be kept busy. One thing we did was tell stories about what we saw. I would ask something like -why is that squirrel running so fast? Then I’d designate which child had to start the story when they’d gone as far as they could they’d pass it along to a sibling. What can I say it kept them busy and out of trouble.

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