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The Truth

June 30, 2011

I originally wrote this story with a positive ending. I had just finished reading The Paris Wife and I was angry that any woman would put up with so much. I was happy with the story I wrote, but it didn’t ring true to me, so I wrote the alternate ending. John Wiswell had a post a few weeks ago where he debated the merits of happy endings versus realism. This week, I’ll let you decide. Only the last 70 words are different in this story. When you get to the end, read both endings and let me know which one you prefer.

She looked into his eyes and knew the truth, so plain to see now that she knew what to look for. It had stared her in the face for months, maybe longer. She’d felt the desperation in his kisses; clinging to her as though at any moment she might slip from his hands. When it was really she who was solid, and he who was slipping away.

Mistaking it for passion; she saw what she wanted to see.

It was painfully clear now. Snapped into focus with a twist of the lens. Nausea rolled through her gut. Her head swam. She dropped her bag and clutched the door frame. He was beside her, words pouring from his lips. But she couldn’t hear over the rushing sound in her head.

She flinched, pulling away from his touch. He jerked back, the sting of her rejection plain on his face. She would have laughed if it hadn’t hurt so much.

Even as tears stung her eyes, a spark of relief flared to life. There had been doubts all along. She’d ignored the signs, burying them in the name of foolishness and jealousy. But she was only a fool for not having seen it all sooner—the playful wink, the brushing of a hand, the whispers, the laughter—all at her expense. She’d stood by, huddled in her cloak of denial, watching it all slip away.

Anger ignited in her chest. At him. At her. At herself.

He was still talking, soothing, explaining. Her hand flew. The sound of flesh on flesh echoed through the room. Her palm stung as a red imprint flared to life on his cheek.

Light Ending

Dark Ending:

So tell me, dear readers, which ending suits the story best?

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2011 12:14 PM

    I wasn’t so much writing about Happiness Vs. Realism as the funny divorce between them.

    Now, is it supposed to be a joke that the Light Ending takes you to a 404? Because if so, good one!

    • July 1, 2011 8:04 AM

      Now that it’s Friday and all, I guess I can vote! I go with the Light one. It’s not treacle like I argue over the split in the essay. Rather, it’s because the numbness of the dark ending is too pat for me. The way she finds her own progress in the Light is more interesting.

      #fridayface

  2. Shadow permalink
    June 30, 2011 12:16 PM

    Hon, neither the light or dark links work

  3. June 30, 2011 12:24 PM

    Links should be all fixed now. Sorry! #bloggerfail

  4. June 30, 2011 12:24 PM

    They both work for me, I pick light cause I need the happy(ish) ending right now 🙂

  5. Shadow permalink
    June 30, 2011 12:32 PM

    No worries.

    I think that both ending were great. For me it would depend on the market as to which one I would go with, if you were intending to submit it.

  6. June 30, 2011 12:46 PM

    I prefer the dark ending. There’s still a feeling of hope, after the numbness wears off. The light ending doesn’t feel a realistic conclusion to such original emotion. But then, that’s just me 🙂

  7. June 30, 2011 1:10 PM

    I would say light – I prefer for her to walk off and leave him hanging… and that last line about the pen being in her hand was my favorite:)

  8. June 30, 2011 1:23 PM

    I’m with Anne in that I loved that last line, but to be honest and fair to you, neither of these endings really appealed to me.

    The story itself is magic. And the post idea is genious, to allow us to read altenate endings is brilliant. Leading from that I think it would be fun to see how others would write their own ending to your story. 🙂

  9. June 30, 2011 1:39 PM

    I don’t think I’d call either of those a happy ending as the situation kind of sucks. I think the dark ending is way more realistic. Either way, good work. 🙂

  10. June 30, 2011 1:40 PM

    I agree that both are good but the darker ending appeals to me more!

  11. June 30, 2011 1:58 PM

    I liked the light ending because it left us feeling like the main character had power. I agree that either could work, though, depending upon what feelings you wanted to produce.

  12. June 30, 2011 3:32 PM

    I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule always one over the other, but in this particular case the hard ending seems far superior to me. It flows on from the rest of the tale, whereas the writer version seems tricksy and pulls the rug under the astoundingly powerful emotions of what has gone before, a sort of equivalent to ‘phew, it was all a dream’ pay off. The blacking out wish of alcohol is far more telling I think

  13. June 30, 2011 3:57 PM

    I like the dark ending more. It seems more fitting somehow.

  14. June 30, 2011 4:51 PM

    It’s a close call for me, but I rather like the image of her with pen in hand so I’m voting for the light version.

  15. June 30, 2011 5:45 PM

    I like the light ending personally.
    Have you ever considered naming your characters?
    Just a thought..

  16. June 30, 2011 5:53 PM

    I want to say light, but the tone of the dark one rolls neatly ion from the first part. Comfortably numb.

  17. June 30, 2011 7:16 PM

    Both endings were good, but I felt the dark one was unfinished, it was like a prelude to the next step for me. So I think my vote goes for the lighter ending as it felt more finished.

  18. June 30, 2011 9:18 PM

    Thank you everyone for the great comments. It’s been neck-and-neck all day. One choice will pull ahead and the other side will tie it up. Thanks for participating in my little experiment.

  19. July 1, 2011 1:55 AM

    I prefer the light one because I like to see characters (and people, for that matter) pull themselves out of their own situations as opposed to wallowing in them. She takes direct action, assumes control, and leaves him behind. It’s not “light” per se, but it’s the path of strength and conviction. The “dark” ending leads to weakness…so yeah, I vote for the light ending.

  20. July 1, 2011 3:40 AM

    To be honest its dependent upon who you’re marketing it for. If people want a story with realism, go with the dark, if people want one of hope then the light. Both are extremely well done so congrats on being able to travel both roads.

  21. July 1, 2011 5:21 AM

    owwww I like this idea – its great giving the reader choice. However I cannot decide. I think I like the light one only because its her getting to walk away – shes in control which by the sounds of things doesn’t happen often. Yet the darker side seems slightly more realsitic and achieveable from a character who has been ‘trodden’ on
    Brilliant work

  22. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    July 1, 2011 9:00 AM

    Good job with this Dani. I enjoyed the dark ending more because of the realism, and I appreciate realism more than not in any story. That said, however, I don’t hold every story to that expectation. It really depends on the characters themselves, and whether or not I can relate to them. Of course if we feel close to a character and are rooting for them, we (or maybe I should say I) want to see them overcome their problems. But there are some stories that simply must have a sad ending to feel right – Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper is a great example of this, and one that has been criticized, and appreciated in equal measure because of the ending.

    In any case, great story!

  23. July 1, 2011 10:34 AM

    I gotta go with light cause it fits better to me. Why would she think and feel as she did throughout the story only to drop all of it and head for a bottle of Whiskey? That didn’t make sense to me. But leaving- using the truth to go, that feels more realistic. And it’s not necessarily light, either. I mean, she doesn’t know where she’s going or what she’ll do- all she knows is the sick feeling in her stomach and all the emotions that accompany it won’t let her stay.

  24. FARfetched permalink
    July 1, 2011 11:07 AM

    The “light” ending wasn’t very light, if you ask me. “Happy vs. realism” — hm, a little prejudice there? 😉

    Anyway, I pick the dark ending. It resonated.

  25. July 1, 2011 11:38 AM

    Reading both I am, for some reason, reminded of the play Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf. Might be the supposed love and the liqour.
    The ‘light’ ending is how every domestic abuse movie starts. She leaves, he follows and most likely kills her or her sister. The dark ending is very real. Most women will abuse themselves furthur, due to the fact they are afraid of being alone.
    Where are you going, Dani? You going for a contination where the guy goes nuts or you going to end it with her self destructing? Either way you did well. Hope it isn’t bioagraphical.

    • July 1, 2011 11:50 AM

      Nope, not going anywhere with it. It’s a flash and that’s the end. It’s not one I plan to expand on in any way. And, no, it’s not autobiographical. I’ve never been in this type of situation, but I know others who have.

  26. July 1, 2011 11:07 PM

    Danni … Am I the only one who thinks that the’re both dark-ish? Granted, one is darker. But hmmmm, this is a really good question you’ve posed. I’m a sucker for a downbeat ending but in this case, I think I may like the upbeat more. It feels finished. The downbeat one, while very good as well, seems more like a snapshot of a moment that’s still incomplete.

    But they’re both really enjoyable… Great job.

  27. July 2, 2011 8:25 AM

    THE RESULTS!

    It’s been neck-and-neck since I posted. One ending would pull ahead only to have the other match it and vice-versa. Right now, with 34 votes between the comments here, Twitter and Facebook replies, and my own family, the winner is……

    The Dark ending by 1 vote

    Dark: 14
    Light: 13
    Both: 6
    Neither: 1 (thanks Tammy! :P)

    Now, obviously, this post isn’t going anywhere so these numbers are bound to change, but this has been a fun little experiment. Thank you for playing along with me.

  28. July 2, 2011 3:49 PM

    I agree with John. The light one goes better with the story’s flow. The numbness of the dark one slows the story down to a stop. Feels a bit disappointing.

    Although I like this story a lot, I don’t think this is a good example of happy endings vs. realism. Both your endings seem realistic enough, IMO!

  29. July 7, 2011 10:44 PM

    I like the darker ending. It felt more satisfying and fully explored. However I can understand why the lighter ending would leave more to the imagination which is always desirable.

  30. adampb permalink
    July 8, 2011 5:04 AM

    An interesting premise to play out alternative endings. I’ve done it before, too, just to see how a story might develop. Both endings have merit; I like both for the different emotions they evoke.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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