Okay, now I'm even closer to finishing a problematic short story than I was earlier this month when I wrote Out of the Woods. What has given me new energy to get to "The End" is a new question: What does the main character bring back?
My story involves intersecting time travel by two characters. Part of what had me stumped were the technical issues in any time-travel story. Can you change your own time if you go into the past? Can you learn in the future something that will change the present? While you're gone, how time much passes here while you are away there? Double the trouble: How much time passes if each of two time travelers has a different trajectory? At what time do they arrive back?
Never mind my solution. First of all, I'm not really a science-fiction writer (fantasy is more my line), and I doubt that what I've come up with is unique even though I thought it up myself. The second and more important point is that, although some readers revel in such mechanics, what makes a story successful for most has to do with emotions. Once I got past the finicky how and started thinking about what did my main character gain or lose from her experience, I had a way into making the ending seem to matter.
And that brings me to the point of my title: Every story of a return should reveal what the pilgrim/adventurer brings back from the journey. And every blog post should make a gift to readers of something to take away. In this case, I hope you will have found it worth your time to read my post for any one of the following (or all!): First, the idea that asking a different question can shake loose a dilemma. Second, a link to the Myth and Moor post, There and Back Again, that set me thinking about what could give my story depth at the end. And third, the weirdly delightful picture by Remedios Varo, which strikes me as a wonderful emblem of a fantasy writer working steadily on a sci-fi story. (If you want to know more about her, click here.)