FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #332: Carli Didn’t Dig the Ending
I received two quick emails from Carli . . .
Hi James prellee I read your book bystander and I don’t really like how you ended it you should have ended it with more conflict but over all I really liked it and is there a second book
And what I really did like about the book I like that there was a lot of conflict and I like how Mary was a good friend to Eric and was introduced herself to Eric when he first arrived
I replied . . .
Sorry it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get back to you. I blame the turkey!
You sent two brief emails and I’ll try to answer them both here, toggling back and forth.
Let’s see: the ending.
Ah, the ending.
I know, I know. It doesn’t wrap things up in a tidy bow and it doesn’t conclude with a dramatic flourish. In many respects, you are not wrong to wish for those things. I usually do, too. But in this story, I wanted it to be as true to life as I could make it. So I sort of sidestepped “drama” in favor of “truth.” For better and for worse! I actually did write a more dramatic and “satisfying” ending w/ Eric helping to get Griffin caught for stealing bicycles, but it felt false (and forced) to me, so I ditched it.
I think in real life we kind of endure these things. We move past them over time. That annoying kid in 7th grade moves on, time passes, and we realize it’s behind us at a certain point. There’s no tidy resolution. In terms of artifice, of a fictional story, maybe that’s not the most satisfying way to go. But, hey, to be honest, I like the open-ended nature of the book. That these characters live on in our imagination, and that it’s up to individual readers to speculate about where things will go after that. I do leave a number of hints along the way.
Yes, I love Mary, too. She’s a minor but crucial character in Bystander. And one that was, I think, underwritten. My primary focus was on Eric’s experience. But Mary has guts, stands up to her friends, suffers the consequences of that decision, and undergoes the greatest change in the novel. I liked her so much, in fact, I made her the main character in my recent book, Upstander, a prequel/sequel to Bystander. The book follows Mary closely, some time before the timeline of Bystander begins. We see her meet and become friends with Griffin. We learn about her troubled home life. We learn more about her uneasy friendship with Chantel. And halfway through the book, we pick up on meeting Eric on that basketball court (chapter one of Bystander) — this time told from Mary’s point of view. We also see that horrendous, painful moment with David and the ketchup.
Everyone has a story. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s to withhold our judgment on other people. We just don’t know what’s going on in their lives. For Upstander, I wanted to pull back the curtain and get to know Mary much, much better.
I hope you read it. There’s also an excellent audiobook available, if you prefer to read with your ears.