Sometimes an ending just doesn’t feel right. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, it might even be what you planned – but months later you find yourself still wondering if perhaps it should have gone a different way… That’s exactly what happened with a short story I wrote entitled A Place of Safety.
The story itself has always been a bit special to me – even though it’s not epic fantasy (gasp). It was inspired during the period of time we moved to Wellington and lived in a big old house clinging to the side of a hill. Not long after we moved I became pregnant with our son and spent most of the pregnancy bed-ridden (with hyperemesis), and because my husband was working and I didn’t know another soul, I spent a lot of time alone in the house…
The story is about Claire, a girl all but invisible to society, who finds her solace in an old house. The house is owned by an old man she calls the Landlord, who has an ongoing feud with an architect who owns all of the surrounding properties. An unlikely romance develops between Claire and her neighbour Damien (the architect’s son), a physically deformed artist. Unfortunately, the way I wrote it, things did not end well for the lovers.
Although I’d planned it to have a tragic, things-got-out-of-hand, ending, when it came down to it – it seemed like such a waste. Over the course of the story the characters had grown so much I felt their courage and new-found strength would have pulled them clear of the wreckage. After a long time they’ve finally convinced me they deserve their happy ending.
So today’s WIPpet, (yes I got there eventually) in honour of the 27th of February – is the last 27 lines from A Place of Safety. Because even though I’m not going to use it – I still really liked it and wanted to share it with someone. (Oh and to give the last few lines some context Damien had carved the birds and put them, one at a time, up into a cabbage tree beneath Claire’s window):
When the world comes crashing down, Claire is at her desk, writing a letter to the Architect. The only warning is a loud roar, a split second before the house lurches violently, slamming her forward into the window frame.
Staggering to her feet, her first thought is for Damien. But where doors used to be, there is only unyielding rock and rubble. She runs around the accessible windows, desperate for a glimpse of him. But his face, as comfortable and as familiar as home, isn’t smiling up at her.
The only thing she can find is his name. She calls it over and over, the pitch increasing, until the world retreats into the sound of her screams.
A neighbour who sees it happen, calls the emergency services. Not knowing what else to do, she asks for police, fire and ambulance.
Because the site is so steep, a fireman has to use a ladder and break a window to gain access. After a quick search he finds a girl sprawled in the rubble, a gash on her head, hands torn and bloody.
He tries to talk to her, but she doesn’t respond. Although her eyes are open, she doesn’t seem to see him at all – as if she’s focussing on something far away.
He has to carry her out of the house.
The Architect races down the hill looking for his son. When he can’t find him he pleads with the fire-crew to search the rubble. He is there, hours later, when Damien’s body is uncovered, broken within the rock. He roars his grief at the world.
An investigation occurs. Due to an unfortunate error, the truck driver was given the wrong address. The top of the hill where the rock was dumped was unstable, causing it to fall onto the house below. It is declared a tragic accident.
No one knows what to do with the house. Eventually its weakened foundations collapse and it crashes down onto the cabbage tree. There is no sign of the two wooden birds. Their nest destroyed, they have flown away.
Oh and for context again – it wasn’t an accident. The Architect was trying to scare Claire into selling the house…
For those of you who would like to join me and other WIPpeteers (a fun group if the twitter dress code is anything to go by) – the rules are easy. Just post something from a Work in Progress that relates to the date – today is the 27th, so 27 words, lines, something from page 27 or chapter 27 (it’s pretty flexible). Then add yourself to this linky. Thanks to the lovely K.L. Schwengel for hosting!
Have you ever had to go back and rewrite an ending? Or have you ever wanted to rewrite an ending to someone elses book?