I’ve run out of smart-sounding things to say about writing short stories, so I’ll transition to simply telling stories about my own life. Hopefully, I can dredge up some lessons for you all from the experiences.
Over three years ago, on February 7th, 2014, I was diagnosed with a spinal condition called Spondylolisthesis (I know, it’s a mouthful). A junior in high school then, I had constant burning sensations in my feet and legs, plus lower back pain.
The diagnosis illuminated the source of my pain. Somewhere along the line—no doctor has been able to determine when— I fractured my L5 vertebrae. The undetected fracture caused instability, and my L5 vertebrae slipped forward, permanently pinching the nerves that run through it, causing constant burning sensations in my feet and legs.
At the time, I competed in cross-country, swimming, and track & field for my local high school. Those days rapidly came to end. Instead, for the next few years, I went through physical therapy, chiropractics, pain-killing injections, and a bucketload of prayers.
All the medical routes I took failed to put a dent in the problem.
However, just like any story, I’ve found my ending. Over spring break, I visited a spinal specialist and scheduled spinal fusion surgery. This May, a surgeon will graft my L4 vertebrae, my L5 vertebrae, and my sacrum together, which will restore my L5 vertebra to its proper anatomical position and relieve the the pressure on the pinched nerves.
The surgeon will remove the seriously damaged portion of my L5 vertebra and use parts of my pelvic bone for bone grafts. Rods will also be inserted to provide stability.
After 6 months to a year, the fusion will have completely healed. After that, I can return to any activities I wish, which means running as many 5Ks and playing as much hockey as I want, pain-free and unencumbered.
No one, including me, desires to undergo major surgery and get gutted like a fish so a doctor can yank your body back into its rightful function. But it’s an ending—an ending that has me grateful for health insurance, convenient access to medical care, and talented doctors.
So I’m on my way to better days.
As a sophomore in college now, I can put to rest that which began in my junior year of high school.
What does any if this have to with the ending of a short story?
Throughout this weird experience of mine, I’ve learned that I often cannot control the outcomes of unexpected obstacles.
In the same way, the characters in our short stories may have dreams and desires that they struggled and strain to attain. However, there are forces in our stories that work against the protagonist.
In the end, I think the best resolution to a story is one that even the protagonist could not have imagined. The unexpected resolution can be fulfilling or tragic; it’s the writer’s choice. Whatever the choice may be, the best characters are ones that improvise, adapt, and overcome.
When crafting an ending, think of how your character’s personality and intangibles would have them respond to adversity, and once you get a feel for that, the possibilities will multiply.
Whichever ending you choose, make it authentic rather than cookie-cutter. If I’ve learned anything over he past few years, the ending someone never expects often makes for the best stories and hardest-learned lessons.
Author’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of articles that will chart the progress I’m making on writing a short story. The story will be part of a larger Geneva College project in which students from Dr. Williams’s ENG 344 Publishing compile their short stories into a published collection for the campus. Check us out on Facebook under “Geneva Inklings.”
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.