A new edition of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is about to be released that includes 47 (47!) alternative endings to the classic novel. And while this is probably a major treat for Hemingway-ites out there, I find the whole thing a little depressing.
I mean: This guy could come up with 47 ways to end a story? I'm lucky if I have one I like.
Now, this could have something to do with the manuscript whose revisions I'm currently revising. The ending is... just not what I want it to be yet. It will be, but I haven't figured out how so far.
And old Ernie could concoct 47 different endings for a book that everybody agrees is a classic? That'll bring a writer down in a hurry.
I've started, therefore, to write alternative endings to other people's books, just to see if I can. I'd write alternative endings to my own, but like I pointed out above, the first one was just too draining. Here are a few final paragraphs I believe will be found if someone goes through a few famous novelists' desk drawers more carefully:
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell: She turned away, but seconds later there was a knock on the door. Scarlet flung it wide open, and there stood Rhett, grinning in his mischievous "hey-we-lost-the-war-but-everybody-still-thinks-we're-noble" way. "Aw hell, I was just kidding," he said, taking her into his arms. "Wait. Can I say 'hell'?"
Moby-Dick, or the Whale, by Herman Melville: But Ahab still did breathe, and as he struggled against the whale, took off his wooden leg and stabbed at it, shouting, "Demon! Monster! You have no idea how I despise thee!" But the whale, grinning, dove down again, taking the captain with him. When they finally came up for air again, Ahab was riding the whale, holding on for dear life to its blowhole, and screaming, "Again! Again! You promised!" They disappeared over the horizon, and when next I heard, had set up housekeeping in Key West near a lovely antique shop.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum: "It was you!" the Lion shouted. "All this time, you've been playing us against each other, competing to be the one you liked best! But all you ever wanted was to go back to that Kansas place you keep whining about! You never loved us at all!"
"That's right!" agreed the Tin Man. "You've been dividing us against ourselves. It's your fault I still don't have a heart!"
"It's not so!" Dorothy protested. "Tell them, Scarecrow!"
The Scarecrow's painted-on smile had taken on a demonic glint. "Oh, I don't think I can," he drawled, his voice dripping sarcasm. "I'm not smart enough. I don't have a brain!"
"Get her!" the Lion yelled, and in no time flat, the girl had been dispatched by ax, claws, and straw. Mostly ax and claws.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie: In the next second, the door swung open. "It's me!" shouted Roger Ackroyd. "I've been asleep this whole time--I was just dead!
"Did I miss anything?"
The Five Books of Moses: "I lead these people wandering through the desert for 40 years--in sandals!--and I don't even get to see the Promised Land?" Moses shouted.
"It's not that big a deal," God told him. "I put the oil everywhere else."
"It's not fair! I did everything you asked! I deserve to see what I've been toiling for all these decades!"
"Keep it up," the Lord told him. "I can see to it that when the movie is made, you're played by Charlton Heston."
Sophie's Choice, by William Styron: "I'll have the patty melt," Sophie said.
"True, true," said Athos. "That'll be seventeen gold coins."
"Gold coins?" D'Artagnan said, his eyes blinking at the price. "For what?"
"Union dues," Porthos answered. "Four-oh-three, musketeers local."
D'Artagnan reached into his doublet and found his purse. "But I have only eleven," he reported to his true and dear friends.
"A pity," Aramis told him. "You're majorly screwed."
"But I am a musketeer!" D'Artagnan insisted. "The king himself has appointed me!"
"The king," scoffed Athos, waving a hand. "Management. Who listens to him? Cough up, Gaston. We need the money for new muskets."
"We never use the muskets," D'Artagnan protested. "We do all our fighting with swords!"
Aramis shrugged. "Tell it to the Teamsters," he said. "We're affiliated."
On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin: Still, it's all just a theory. I could be wrong. I'm probably not, but I could be. Other people should do research on this. You can't just decide something this important without scientific proof. You know?
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens: Actually, in retrospect, it was just the worst of times.
By the way: I had a piece posted a few days ago at The Good Men Project. Take a look!