One of my cousins recently informed me that my emails were showing up with all sorts of odd characters in them. For example, he said, he could see all the "carriage returns."
Carriage returns --wow, what an old term! I asked my twenty-something son if he knew what it meant. Yup. But did he know the origin of the word? Nope. So I explained to him how old manual typewriters had carriages which you smacked with your right hand to get to the next line.
We have an old Underwood sitting in a closet, in fact, a relic from our parents' days. It might be considered an antique now, I guess. Heck, even IBM Selectrics are probably considered antiques!
Speaking of electric typewriters, I'm a fan of the AMC series Mad Men, set in the Madison Avenue advertising world of the early 1960s. In one episode, the secretary Joan points out the electric typewriters to a new hire and says, "Try not to be overwhelmed by all this technology. It looks complicated, but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use."
As that bit of dialogue illustrates, Mad Men's writers nail the details in their piece of historical fiction--not just the details of setting and furnishings and clothing, but of attitudes.
One of Mad Men's story lines features a secretary, Peggy, who's managed to tap loudly enough on the glass ceiling to be promoted to copy writer, with her own office and secretary. Peggy's road is a bumpy one and, from week to week, you're never quite sure if she's going to be successful or . . . return to the lowly position from which she started, smacked down by the powerful men around her, even those, like the character Don Draper, who helped her move up.
I have fun envisioning the story I'd love to see play out with Peggy--where she rises all the way to the pinnacle of power within the ad business and gives those chauvinistic fellows around her a smack of her own.
Who knows where the Mad Men writers will take the character of Peggy? But thinking about her story made me think of other stories for which I wish an alternative ending could be fashioned.
Take Wuthering Heights, for example. I would have loved to have seen Heathcliffe get his comeuppance--maybe have Cathy ream him out when they finally meet again on the moors? ("Just what the heck did you think you were doing, Heathy, ruining all those lives? Ya think that makes you attractive to me, you big sod?")
When I was a freshman in high school, a gifted English teacher gave us the assignment of writing an ending all our own to John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Needless to say, most were happy endings. I think mine was a melodramatic story involving love and reconciliation. Whatever it was, I'm eternally grateful to that talented teacher for lighting a spark in me to write. I still remember the excitement I felt when working on that assignment.
As I've matured as a writer, I sometimes wish I could take my characters farther than the ending in my books. I like to wonder what happens to them. When I penned Fire Me, I even wrote an extra chapter featuring the hero and heroine several months after the main story took place --the extra chapter is available to readers who email me asking for it.
Are there any stories you've read or written that you'd enjoy returning to and fashioning a different ending for?