The Writer’s Choices: Reflections On Owner’s Share


It has been a while since a piece of work has had me thinking so hard about the writing process as Nathan Lowell’s Owners Share. I have lots of thought on the story, and on writing, especially the choices authors make.

I have to give a lot of props to Nathan for superb delivery, engagement with the fans and support to fellow podiobook authors. As a series comes to an end it is a good time to say thanks for all the effort he has put in. 🙂

I won’t say too much about Owner’s Share, except I didn’t like the ending. As an ending to a series and a book, I can see why Nathan took it there. But for a number of reasons I feel it was a bad way to end. It is my personal view but I think a series ending should always be upbeat, leaving the audience with a strong feeling of satisfaction, and with the promise that if we never come back to there again, we can be happy with where we leave the story. The ending just didn’t deliver that for me and for a number of other fans. 😦

This has led me to reflect on the relationship between authors, readers/listeners and their characters. It is true that in the end the author “owns” the destiny of their characters, but in a series often the readers/listeners will feel a strong level of ownership of the character. They will have an invested interest in where the character ends up.  Where that differs from the authors, how much notice should the author take of the “fans” views? It can be problematic for the author as they risk alienating the fans if they take the story too far from where the fan base wants it. I am now unsure as to how I feel about the Share series as a whole, but I will still listen to my favourite stories again, and again, and agian. And then maybe a few more times. 🙂 So yeah I would recommend the series to anyone!

As an author I hope to one day have a strong fan base, so how I deal with that is going to be important. In the end I think as an author I need to listen to where my audience wants me to take them. In the writing of my current Fursk and Gurt story I started to take one of the characters down a particular path, and my chief sounding board sat me down and told me in on uncertain terms that as a reader she didn’t want me to go there. That story arch was cancelled and after a while I can see that was the right choice. It is still my story, and the characters destinies are wholly in my hands, but I feel I should  take that into consideration. Next time I come to that point I wonder which will win, the author’s voice or the fan’s. Best two out of three?

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13 thoughts on “The Writer’s Choices: Reflections On Owner’s Share

  1. Thanks, Michael.

    It was an interesting process, creating this ending. Your perception of it is likewise interesting because you *do* share a common perception of the end of the book with some of the fans who see this ending as an dark and depressing downer.

    I see it as a positive opening to a new future, and perhaps my view of it as new beginning is preventing me from appreciating it as a ending.

    There are some things that the ending needed to accomplish for me.

    First, it needed to bring us back — to complete the Hero’s Journey. That means closing out the current situation in a way that demonstrates growth. That *requires* him to do what he’s doing. (I’ll let it go at that because people are still scrambling to down load and listen and I don’t want to spoil the ending by saying WHAT he’s doing.)

    Second, it needed to leave an opening for future stories. The “and they lived happily ever after” ending has no place here. (I know that’s not what you’re suggesting, but it’s important to say so because a LOT of people wanted that ending. They were doomed to disappointment from the start.) Likewise, there’s not going to be a “the end” moment in my books.

    Up to now, it’s not been obvious because there was always the promise of ‘the next book in the series’ but the idea has been around since the beginning. This “journey not finished” theme started in Quarter Share and has persisted – explicitly in some cases — right through all the writing. I’m trying to write a different future chronicle, one that doesn’t end when the reader hits the back cover. Those are nice, handy, well contained stories and many people write them. I’m not one of those writers. It’s probably gonna be a problem for me but I’m too permanently scarred by persistent virtual environments — too aware that all stories about people end only one way. The story of Ishmael Wang — or Tanyth Fairport for that matter — can only *end* one way. Any story that doesn’t include that ending, won’t include the kind of “hard, full stop, we’re there now” ending that many readers will need for closure.

    I’m ok with that.

    Thanks, Michael. Your insight is valuable to me and given me something to think about in return.

    Now has everybody listened to The Spiral Tattoo?? Hm.. I have an opening in my feeds … I think I’ll go subscribe right now.

    🙂

    Safe voyage.

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  2. I’m not going to try to curry favor with Nathan here. Not only am I not that kind of fan (people who have seen my comments on other podcasts know that I do not pull any punches) it would be pointless, because our good Captain has already given me the greatest favor he could possibly have done.

    So when I say that this “ending” is exactly the kind of ending I crave. This book has taught me that my biblioterminophobia is, in fact, an aversion to that kind of ending that most books have; the happily-ever-after-nothing-else-happens-g’bye-g’byenow-buh-bye ending leaves me feeling empty.

    This ending made me feel full.

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    1. I can see how the ending would satisfy a lot of people. 🙂 And I certainly don’t need a “happy ever after ending”.

      I think that part of my issue is a feeling that the ending was taking a chainsaw to the tree, when a pruning would have achieved the same effect.

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      1. “I think that part of my issue is a feeling that the ending was taking a chainsaw to the tree, when a pruning would have achieved the same effect.”

        Would it?

        I can conceive of a “it’s not working. nothing personal but I need to go my own way” ending.

        But would *that* have done it? Would that have been sufficient to cause the emotional break? I’m not convinced. That’s what happened in Captain’s Share and it wasn’t enough then.

        You’ve got me thinking, Michael, but so far I’m not seeing a different path through the woods.

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      2. There are a whole lot of writing issues packed up in that. Obviously there is a clear endpoint we want to achieve as a writers in our works for our character and bringing them there is a careful balancing act.

        So, without going into too many details #article37 and all. 😉 And not wanting to sound too much like a rapid fan 😉

        So why the chainsaw? Personally there is a timing issue. I would have been happier with the ending, if the events in the episode before #article37 had happened several episodes earlier.

        Another part, which is more related to my attitudes as a writer, than the story itself, is in recent times I have come to question the death of characters. I know that’s a bit strange for a murder mystery writer. 😆

        I have a couple of stories floating around on the back burner that aren’t mysteries, and when doing some plotting on one I came to a point where I was killing a character off, and it jarred for me.

        Your right a “it’s not working. nothing personal but I need to go my own way” ending wouldn’t have been sufficient. But could the endpoint have been reached without either that character returning? Or with a different #article37?

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  3. I wonder too if my reaction would be different if I had been simply reading the story, as apposed to listening? The connection to the character and story is a lot more personal when listening to a story being read, especially when it is well read! Just a thought 🙂

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    1. I’ll pick up the previous thread down here.

      I thought of a lot of other choices for the attachment, but I invested a lot in Captain’s Share. There’s a reason he was off balance the whole way and it was because he missed his center. He made a LOT of crappy decisions that were not all being force on him by circumstance. There was a reason the return happened, even tho a lot of people think it was slapdash and haphazard. It was neither. It had been engineered from the last book.

      The timing of the Incident is likewise critical. A lot of people have a problem with the way I end my stories, but I really believe that when the story is over the book should end. Ishmael’s story ended in episode 28. Everything that happened after that — and it occurs over several months of elapsed time — is all that’s significant to closure, decision, and renewal. There is no other story to tell. There’s no more there. The break — emotional and psychological — has occurred in 28 and all that’s left is for the inevitable to play out and for him to decide what to do about it. He’s going to let it eat him, or he’s going to use it as the springboard for his new life.

      I – personally – find the ending sad, but upbeat. The ending of any treasured journey carries seeds of sadness so this doesn’t seem like too much. The cycle had to end in order for me to continue with new stories and that means a break.

      Now? Could I have done a Princess Leia and given him a medal and send him off into the sunset without the girl? Yeah. Ok. I could have, but that robs all further action of impetus, of meaning. This whole time becomes meaningless and all he takes away is the money.

      I don’t know … I could be off base. I could be letting the story run away with me. I’d even be willing to consider rewriting the novel IF you can come up with a better story.

      Your turn.

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  4. I couldn’t come up with a better story, just a different story 🙂 and I would never suggest re-writing a story because a set of fans didn’t like where you took them.

    I think you’re right. When the story ends, the book should end. Mostly. The proviso on that is whether the story is stand alone or serial in nature. I think that stand alone works need a lot more knot tying. There is a danger though in closing the story too soon, where you have that feeling you get with the ending coming in a “rush”, although that rush might actually be necessary. You have the climatic moment and then the aftermath, but sometimes there is very little to say about the aftermath.

    I think that part of the pacing issue in the ending is that the character has had months to adjust and the listener hasn’t, and I haven’t a clue how to get around that because filling those months would be unnecessary padding .

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  5. I’m not sure if agree on knot-tying or not. I need to think about that. I’m generally dis-inclined to make carte blanche statements like that because I think it may depend on the specific work – might even be a function of the style. I don’t know if I’d ever tie off enough loose ends to suit everybody.

    I think you’re correct about the time dilation effect at the end. Everybody is still in shock and things just happen and before you know it the book is wrapping up and you’re left sitting there going .. Wow? What happened?

    Kinda like you just lost the love of your life and you’ve been on autopilot for half a year, huh?

    Go figger.

    I’ve spilled the full back story, if you’re interested. DM me and I’ll send you the link.

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  6. Thanks for the back story link. It was interesting, but I have to say the fans there are quite intense. 🙂

    I am not wanting to drag anything over from there as you don’t, nor shouldn’t, need to re-litigate every plot point!

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    1. heh.

      Yes. Yes, they are.

      Truth. Wrapping up a series like this, no matter what I write, somebody won’t like it. Every book I’ve ever put out has had somebody who wanted to log in and tell me I suck.

      Quarter Share nothing ever happens. Half Share is a juvenile wet dream. Full Share is a brain dead, unmystery where Ishmael solves every problem. Double Share was a simplistic plot with no redeeming grace. Captain’s Share was unrealistic because the ex “got away with it” and Ishmael was just not upset enough.

      With each book the audience grows and the nay sayers get more strident. With this book, they’re even more so. I’m just glad people are so invested, altho sorry that some people are feeling hurt and angry.

      The story is the story. It’ll never please everybody.

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  7. At first, Owner’s Share upset me, but as I digested it, I am fairly sure that I will look back on this as a very good ending. I will certainly remember it for a long time. Of course, this does rely on the assumption that future Ishmael stories come along and I enjoy them. So, in the end, it comes back to the author and his readers wanting MORE.

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