And I Thought the Second Book was Difficult!

We’ve all had things we’ve enjoyed that haven’t stuck the landing. I stayed with Lost faithfully for six years, grinning and baring it every time ten new mysteries were thrown up because I had some modicum of faith that there was…

…but you know how that story ends. Everything was to protect a glow-cave that was introduced with about four episodes to go, and not because the desperately panicking showrunners had just thought of it (oh noooooo).

It taints things, a bad ending. I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s excellent short story The Mist until the last five minutes, completely altered from the source material, came along and tore up all my comics and ate my cornflakes and scratched all my blu-rays. And now when I think of The Mist (the movie at least) I don’t think “oh but the first 95% of the movie was wonderful”, I skip straight to the ending and I go – ughhh, and I shudder at the recollection.

I envy other forms of art like paintings or sculptures, static and lacking any need for narrative except what we impose. Aye, but there’s the rub; we do impose. We’re humans, we live on stories and we love a beginning and a middle…and an end.

This is all my very long-winded way of saying that when I revisited my initial draft of Completely Folk’d with a view to getting it ready to send off for editing, I found the process much more difficult than with the first two books. I don’t know, maybe the original draft wasn’t as tight to begin with, or maybe because it was building toward an ending I was more nervous. Only a few people had ever read all three books in their original form, and all of them had expressed big reservations about the ending of book 3.

 

If you read most of my short stories you’ll know I don’t “do” happy endings very often, at least not in the traditional sense, and I definitely had not delivered a happy ending. So now I had a problem and a dilemma – people didn’t like the ending, but did that mean it had to be changed? There have been innumerable instances of pressure being applied for stories to have tacked-on “happy endings” because they didn’t sit well with audiences. Shakespeare’s Lear for centuries was performed with a happy ending where Cordelia, his one innocent and good-hearted daughter, turns up alive and well at the end.

 

In the original play she dies, “offscreen”, in a random act of death that seems senseless. She was Lear’s shining light, his beacon of redemption, and yet here he is now, a changed man having gone through the trials and realised his earlier folly at rejecting her for her honesty, and she turns up dead in his grieving arms anyway. He dies thereafter of a broken heart. The Bard didn’t fuck about when it came to tragedy. Yet there’s now held to be little doubt that the real ending is much truer and much better than the happy ending. It fits.

 

So I was reluctant to delve straight into revamping Completely Folk’d and its ending. I decided to leave it alone until the time came for the 3rd book to be published, and look at it afresh, and that’s what I did. Thankfully, enough time had passed that I was able to bring fresh eyes to what I’d written and realise that I wasn’t wedded to the way things were. If it had been heart-wrenching but had seemed true, I would have fought for it to remain, but it didn’t. I thought Danny and Ellie deserved better, and I knew that those who had read the first two books and (hopefully) come to root for them would want something more satisfying.

 

Of course, once I’d opened that box, I couldn’t stop tinkering. What about this character? What about this? I had to ripple the new endings backwards, insert scenes to replace the ones I had excised and I made the decision, unique among the other books in the series, to have the main story bookended by a framing story, a little vignette of the future, and a very strange future at that. At time of writing this blog the frame story remains but who knows – if my “test audiences” (and my editor!) dislike it, it too may go. I hope not. I liked sprinkling hints that this was a very different world, in many ways a very puzzling world. There is bright light from outside at midnight. The mother tells her little child that being left alone in the dark with the wolves should be a reassurance to her. These puzzles will be solved by book’s end.

 

There are some layers to Completely Folk’d. On one level it’s an adventure story, a continuation of the escapades of Danny Morrigan into this new and supernatural world. On others…well. It wouldn’t do for me to spell things out, but consider the two countries in Europe most affected by the strange goings-on in the world are Ireland and Greece. Consider what happens to Ireland as a result of Carman’s incursion, and what her solution is, and how she goes about it.

 

I was delighted beyond words to read some reviews of book 2 that said they had enjoyed it even more than book 1. It’s my great hope that this trend can continue into book 3, and that the Folk’d trilogy won’t go down as a Lost series finale or a Mass Effect 3 but more like a Sixth Sense or a Se7en.

 

The fact that the whole thing turns out to be a dream of Danny’s to protect the ghost of his wife’s head which he keeps safe inside a box in a golden cave should ensure that.

 

 

 

 

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