I got a call from my friend Jenny the other day. Mid-conversation, it went something like this:
Me: Did you finish the book?
Jenny: Yeah I finished your book.
Me: … did you like it?
Jenny: … … I didn’t like the end.
Jenny: [spoiler spoiler spoiler] should have happened.
Me: But that isn’t what happens. What happens in the story. It was a story based on another story, and in the original story, that’s what happens. Sorry.
Jenny: Well I don’t like it.
Me: … I can write you… your own ending?
Jenny: Yeah, yeah do that. The original ending is too [spoiler].
So there it was. The truth I had asked for but not wanted. Jenny didn’t like the ending. It’s not like it’s never been OK to change endings in literary adaptations. Even the old time-y pros are doing it when they adapt. Shakespeare changed the ending of King Lear, from his sources. And The Winter’s Tale. People change the ends all the time when they adapt.
Jenny thinks I ought to have changed the end. Well, I don’t want to. I like the end the way it is. The way the legend properly ends. But also, I’m an obliging type, and I want to lend a hand, so I’m going to write Jenny her own special ending where what she wants to happen, happens. What can I say, I’m just that kind of friend!
But it did get me thinking, the way that we think of the start-point and end points of stories being fixed. I made a lot of changes to the original material I used to write The Guinevere Trilogy, but I never wanted to change the beginning or the ending. We think of these as giving the writing shape, and in a way they do, but I’m going to write this other ending just for Jenny, and see how it goes. It’s an empowering thing, I think, to take something old and adapt it, and make it all yours.
So wish me luck! And I would love to hear in the comments about people’s thoughts on how they wrote their own endings, and if they changed the endings of things that inspired them!