Reader Friday – 200,000 Scenes – 40 Chapters

Three days ago (Tuesday), my wife and I sold an office building where I had practiced medicine for thirty-five years of my 40-year career.

After a year of foot dragging and wanting me to give them the building, our local hospital finally got serious when they learned another hospital was interested in the property. Within two days we had a signed contract. Now the hospital can demolish the building and enlarge their parking lot.

Tuesday night I lay awake reflecting on what had occupied more than half of my life. I began tallying the number of patients I had seen: 100+ patients /week. 5000+ patients/year. 200,000+ patients in 40 years.

Each of those patients had a story to tell of their pain, suffering, injury, or aging. Each was ready to take on the conflict with the antagonist, and invited me to join the battle. And each visit resulted in a record of their story being entered into their chart – 200,000 stories (scenes) over a span of 40 years (chapters).

I started a new book 13 years ago when I began studying and writing fiction. It’s now time to write “THE END” at the back of the earlier book, those forty chapters of life, and close the book.

Thanks for allowing me to reflect.

Today’s discussion is endings:

  • What is your all-time favorite book ending?
  • What is your favorite ending you have crafted for one of your books?
  • Do you have a dream ending that you plan to work into a future book?
This entry was posted in endings, Life Ramblings, Writing by Steve Hooley. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

55 thoughts on “Reader Friday – 200,000 Scenes – 40 Chapters

  1. My quiet condolences, Steve. I hope they compensated you well when it was over. Even with all the “life goes on” stuff, it can’t be easy to know that such an important marker of such a major part of your life will be erased. Thank goodness for those memories.

    • Thanks, Harvey. This post is part of my “grieving process.” Actually, my wife is elated that we will no longer be making weekly “trips to the office” to repair, mow and trim, and pay the bills.

      Compensation was fair. Our little community has very little big money moving in, and when they do, they want new, glass and brick, and fancy. The days of the old country doc are history. Maybe another book?

      Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Good morning, Steve.

    Congratulations on the end of the real estate portion of your vocational journey. That news makes my week. He who waits patiently by the river will eventually see the bodies of his enemies float by. Or something like that.

    My favorite novel ending is found in Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. And yes, I do have a dream ending, already written, for a book, as well as a dream beginning. It’s the middle that is the devil.

    Hope you have a great weekend, Steve!

    • Thanks, Joe. I love that waiting-by-the-river proverb. I need to print that one out.

      Thanks for the mention of James Lee Burke’s Black Cherry Blues. I love when posts here at TKZ lead to book recommendations. I have my pencil and paper out today to make a list.

      I look forward to reading your dream beginning and ending, and especially that middle that you are working so hard on.

      Have a great weekend, Joe!

  3. As you looked back on the charts of your career, I thought about my life in pizza. I just ended 35 years with Domino’s Pizza. The last 20 as a full or part time driver. After telling some of my pizza stories, I was told I should write them down. Perhaps in a year or two I will be the brave author on a First Page Critique.

    By the numbers 2006-2021 30,000 give or take deliveries. About 35,000 going to the last delivery. 20-30,000 more for 1984-2005. 143,000 miles driven. That is 51 trips between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Port of Long Beach.

    Good luck on your next book.

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Alan. Planet of the Apes and The Last Question are going on my list.

      The husband of one of my nurses was a pizza delivery “person.” The stories he told were extremely entertaining. Seeing people in their “natural habitat” has to provide a rich soil for stories. Even a collection of short stories would be a laugh-a-night. Instead of 1001 Arabian Nights, it could be “65,001 Pizza Nights.” Let us know when your book is published.


  4. Well, Steve, I get the same way about old buildings. Here in Charlotte, anything over 5 years old is considered ancient, and perfectly good ranch homes are bulldozed so builders can squeeze in a half-dozen McMansions.

    I still grieve for the old farmhouse I grew up in. It was sad to see it demolished. So many stories lost.

    • Thanks, MC. I’m glad to hear someone else values age and quality. Over in Asheville, they have a little different reverence for The Biltmore Estate and the Grove Park Inn, two of my favorite buildings. The first time I was in the Inn, I was amazed. I had never seen so much quarter-sawn white oak and mission-style furniture in one place.

      And I was fortunate to be able to buy the house in the woods where I had grown up. We’ve fixed it up, and it reminds me of stories almost daily.

      Thanks for your comments.

  5. Congratulations on that closure though I’m sure it’s hard closing the door on something that was part of your life for 40 years. Those big changes always take adjustment. But now you have all new adventures to write.

    What is your all-time favorite book ending?
    My favorite novel, Zane Grey’s “Forlorn River”, unlike many other books I’ve read, has stuck w/me these last 40+ years. It’s not precisely at the end but near the end one of the 2 major character utters the words “So long, pard. We’re square.” in a somewhat John 15:13-esque moment when he flees for his life after saving the day. Still my favorite even after all these decades.

    What is your favorite ending you have crafted for one of your books?
    Of the 2 manuscripts I’ve drafted in full, I haven’t yet crafted an ending that’s a knock out favorite (perfectionism), but stay tuned.

    Do you have a dream ending that you plan to work into a future book?
    Yes, for a book ending a series. Still working out the details.

    Thanks for this post. It’s cool to be reminded of what fun it is to craft and create stories and how tricky it is when writing to choose the right ending–ending too soon, too late, too dramatic? not dramatic enough? You want all your hard work to end just right. And it’s good to be reminded how cool it would be to write an ending to a story that resonates with a reader so much so that they still reflect on it decades later. That would be awesome!

    • Thanks, BK. I’m putting Forlorn River on my list. And let us know when those endings you’re working on are part of a book that is published.

      Yes, it would be awesome to craft an ending that was unforgettable to a reader (in a good way). The excitement of working on new stories makes it easier to let go of the past and close the old book. But we want to get that ending just right.

      Great thoughts.

  6. Congratulations on the sale, Steve. And like Harvey, my condolences for closing an important chapter in your life. Your patients were lucky to have an amazing PCP like you. It’s beautiful to think of all the lives you touched. Now, you’ll touch lives in a different way. {{{hugs}}}

    My favorite ending that I wrote was in I AM MAYHEM. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, powerful, and hopeful. I recently had to re-read the novel to write the next book in the series, and I was like, “How will I ever top that ending?” Hahaha.

    • Thanks, Sue. And thanks for mentioning I AM MAYHEM. I’m putting it on my TBR list. I just love these days when I get to collect a list of books the KZ community has recommended.

      Isn’t it awesome when you read a book you wrote previously and the emotions you felt when you wrote it come flooding back?

      I hope your weekend is beautiful, powerful, and hopeful!

    • Thanks, Jim, for the Michael Connelly recommendation.

      I’ve read Try Fear, and all of the Ty Buchanan series. Try Fear impressed me enough that I wrote and tried to get you to extend the series.

  7. I just had a panic attack over that beautiful building being torn down for yet another freakin’ parking lot.


    I work for a hospital. They always want stuff for free.

    Enjoy your retirement.

    • Good Morning, Cynthia. Don’t have a panic attack. I appreciate your empathy/sympathy. All that emotion can be poured into another book. Big business/big money can make a building disappear. They can’t make a book disappear.

      I just checked on Amazon (at least a first page search) and found no books titled “Hospital.” Two or three titled “The Hospital.” So there you go; take that inside knowledge and emotion, and write a story of corruption and greed and power. I will be eager to read it.

      Thanks, and have a calm weekend.

      • Steve, you made me laugh. A couple of years ago I was working on a time travel originally inspired by a spirited discussion where our elder teaching surgeons bemoaned the differences between medicine back in their day and now. That plus a visit back to my old hospital when my hubby had surgery (and I got lost between the renovations & the original part) inspired my time travel where an overworked surgeon working in the hospital named for his great-grandfather inadvertently goes down the wrong hallway and ends up meeting him face to face.

  8. Good morning, Steve. Congratulations on finishing the final chapter of your long career as a physician. It’s still hard to say goodbye, though, isn’t it? When I retired from the library, there were so many memories from thirty two years of working at four different library branches, and helping I don’t know how many people and answer untold numbers of questions. It’s great that you have numbers. 200K patients. Wow.

    I did have the pleasure of having an adult patron come in to ask me a question and they turn out to be someone I’d helped use the library when they had been a child. That reminded me of how long I’d been a librarian. A job that I applied for after graduating with a degree in history because I thought it would be a good gig for a few years while I made it as a writer turned out to be a very rewarding career.

    In your case, I’m sure you were very focused from the start on being a Doctor, as we both are now on being writers.

    As for endings of books I’ve enjoyed, I’m terrible at remembering specific ones, but I can say what I like–satisfying closure, restoration of order or a creation of a new peace, and a happy ending for our hero.

    As for my own books, the ending of Empowered: Hero, the final book in my Empowered series, is absolutely my favorite, because I think the satisfying closure and creation of a new peace are there, with a happy ending for my hero.

    Have a great Friday!

    • Thanks, Dale. Great to hear your thoughts on your time at the library. It must have been very satisfying to learn that you had helped a patron as a child and as an adult. I have to admit that I felt old when I learned that I had taken care of five generations in one family.

      You’ve described well what most readers are looking for in an ending. We can tinker with about everything else, but if our endings aren’t restoring order and happiness, they probably won’t be popular.

      Thanks for mentioning Empowered: Hero. I’m putting it on my TBR list.

      Hope you have a great weekend!

  9. Steve, thank you for this poignant post. Endings are double-edged swords–the hope for a fresh beginning but also the loss of something cherished.

    Your compassion flows through every word: how many lives you touched, how many ailing people you helped, and how many times you had to deliver bad news. Your patients were fortunate to have you as their healer.

    Favorite film ending is The Sixth Sense. Alan’s mention of Planet of the Apes is a close second. Book endings that bring me to tears every time: Charlotte’s Web and Anne Frank’s diary.

    From my own books, Eyes in the Sky. The story begins with a planned vacation to Yellowstone that takes a convoluted detour into kidnapping and murder. Near the end, the main character’s good intentions pave the road to hell. In an attempt to help her boss/lover, she unwittingly thwarts his plans that she knew nothing about. He’s furious and cruelly breaks off the relationship.

    Alone, she arrives in Yellowstone for the vacation that’s now spoiled. She spends the night, mourning the loss of their relationship as well as the broken connection with his children whom she’s grown to love. The next morning, he shows up, chastened after a severe scolding from his daughter who makes him realize what he’s throwing away. Not exactly HEA but hopeful they can rebuild the relationship.

    I can’t talk about a dream ending for a future book b/c then I’d have to kill you!

    • Thanks, Debbie. You are too kind.

      I like your picks for film and book endings. And as for your Tawny Lindholm series, I’ve read them all, except Crowded Hearts, and it’s on my Kindle. I think my favorite ending was Instrument of the Devil, because the gut wrenching middle called for justice and damnation for a villain who disturbed me enough I almost couldn’t finish the book. Glad I did!

      Don’t tell me your future dream ending. I’m not ready to die. I have a lot of books in me, Lord willing.


  10. Good morning, Steve. 200,000+ lives! Although finalizing the sale of the building is a bittersweet transition, you’ve left a wonderful legacy for your patients. They are fortunate to have had you as their physician.

    What is your all-time favorite book ending?
    Speaking of bittersweet, the ending of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has Francie Nolan literally saying goodbye to her childhood as she leaves the apartment she grew up in. It’s a beautiful moment we can all identify with.

    What is your favorite ending you have crafted for one of your books?
    In the first chapter of my debut novel, The Watch on the Fencepost, the MC finds a mysterious watch on a fencepost that leads her to a new phase in her life and a new understanding of herself. In the last chapter, she finds another watch on the same fencepost that will lead to more changes. (I’ve been meaning to ask JSB if that makes the book a “frame story.”)

    Do you have a dream ending that you plan to work into a future book?
    Not yet.

    • Thanks, Kay. I’m putting A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on my list this morning.

      I’ve read all of your Watch series, and I enjoyed them all. The ending for The Watch on the Fencepost was excellent. It resonates for me when the plot has come full circle with an image, a theme, an action.

      Thanks for your comments!

  11. Steve, I imagine that kind of closure is the very definition of bittersweet. Here’s to a great future!

    My favorite ending of all time comes from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: “[Atticus] turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” It’s just perfect.

    In my own work, I’m proud of most of my endings. My favorite, though, comes from NICK OF TIME, one of my least-read books. A close second is the ending of AT ALL COSTS and behind that, NATHAN’S RUN.

    As for future endings, when the time comes to end the my Jonathan Grave series, I want to do it on my own terms and write a final book that closes the series. I have that story in my head. Now THAT will be a bittersweet moment.

    • Thanks, John.

      I hadn’t thought of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but I see what you mean. I’ve read NATHAN’S RUN and found that ending to be wonderful. I’m putting NICK OF TIME and AT ALL COSTS on my TBR list.

      I won’t say I look forward to that dream ending, because I hope your Jonathan Graves series has a long and successful run.

      I hope you’re enjoying your new setting for writing and finding it inspiring. Nothing like looking out the window and seeing TREES.

  12. Steve;

    I get what you’re saying big time… but perhaps in a different way… my “day job” for the past 22 years (with another 12 or so in other healthcare settings), is with the safety-net hospital here in Atlanta, which has been going at it since 1893. The current “main hospital” is my age – and it’s tripled in size since opening its doors, with an addition planned to open at the end of the year.

    Stories similar to the ones you mentioned in your practice have often come to mind as I walk the across campus or through the main hospital – how many folks have been in THIS room, have come through the ER, have waited and prayed in THAT waiting room, been seen in THIS clinic exam room… have received good / bad news – gone home healed or mended or not at all… or have cared for the patients and each other…?

    My office used to be in the ca. 1958 Psych Unit (appropriately?), and is currently in a former nursing dorm, and the “ghosts” (if you will), of the patients and nursing students who occupied in these rooms and walked these halls often make me pause to wonder about their stories…

    And all of this is tied up in the history – the “Southern history” of separate but equal – that whispers in many ways if one listens for it, even though it has been “shouted down” in many more positive ways…

    So, I realize I didn’t answer your “endings” questions – but perhaps I’ve identified several “beginning” ideas for consideration…

    Thanks for letting me do some “life rambling” this morning…

    • George, I always look forward to your rambling. Thanks for doing so. I loved that Psych Unit office location. It brings back medical school memories at Ohio State. And now my mind is flooding with them.

      So, you have given me some great beginnings ideas. Thanks!

      And I hope your ramblings have given you some new beginnings ideas, too. I will add one image to stir your beginnings:

      My first day, of my first clinical rotation, in med school, was a psych rotation. I walked into the noisy ward and followed the commotion to the large rec room. Dr. Byron Stinson and all the patients were sitting in a touchy-feely circle on the floor, wearing folded-newspaper hats, and chanting profanities.

      • Your Dr. Stinson story sounds like a normal Board Meeting here… 😁

        As to beginnings – I have a few… the one most developed set in the 1930’s, a guy on the front porch of a different (now gone), nursing dorm, as the morning whistle at the cotton mill about two miles away comes over the tar-paper shacks razed for public housing and the interstate highway… Something I “saw” and heard one morning as if transported back in time… pretty “Twilight Zone…”

        • Sounds like a good beginning to a story, especially with all those ghosts of patients and nursing students waiting to become characters.

  13. Hey Steve . . . great post. You reminded me how many stories walked into the cancer center where I worked from 2003-2020. They had legs and arms, wore clothes, and looked like humans, but each one was a unique story.

    I have two forthcoming novels whose endings I love.

    My favorite novel ending(s)? Christy and The Hiding Place.

    (And it was hard to choose.)

    • Thanks, Deb. I bet you have some poignant memories from the cancer center days. The area of medicine I could never become accustomed to was pediatric cancer. I shudder now thinking of those rotations at Children’s Hospital. Those who can work with cancer patients and maintain hope and compassion, deserve a special place of respect.

      Thanks for adding to our list of favorite endings. And I hope your two novels are published soon.

  14. Congrats on closing this chapter in your life Steve. Like others I am not very good at specific endings in novels except maybe Richard Marinick’s “Boyos”.

    As far as endings I have crafted the only one I really like is in a story I wrote-as yet unpublished-entitled “The Woman With Gold Teeth”.

    It’s about a mail order bride/farm wife named Ruth Porter in 1930s Iowa who plans her escape from an abusive husband.

    • Thanks, Robert. And thanks for mentioning BOYOS. I’ll add it to my list.

      Your concept/premise for THE WOMAN WITH GOLD TEETH sounds interesting. I hope you publish it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  15. My family had the same feeling when we sold the family business’ buildings. Dad held onto it when he retired, rented part of it, ran a small business to keep his hand in, and kept his hangar, runway, and plane. After his death and the death of our renter, Mom decided to sell everything. It’s now a massive Evangelical church. I passed it a few weeks ago and not even a tingle of sadness. But, dang, that place features in my dreams even after many years.

    I can’t think of a specific ending of a book or movie right, and most of my endings lose their power without the rest of the book to make sense. My recent “Keep the Reader Reading” series on my writing blog has two articles on endings. There’s the end of the plot and its wrap up, then there may be a final hook that makes the reader want to read your next book. That’s the stinger in TV and movie terminology.

  16. My trip to Croatia last fall, and having a British critique partner calls attention to the way we treat “old” things here. Tear them down, put up new. Not over there. In Split, the Diocletian palace (the town center now) dates back to 305. Good luck with your new endeavor. Writing endings is hard for me. For my romantic suspense books, my editor is always looking for the “Awww” ending.
    For other books, I can’t say there’s one that stuck with me, but that’s my aging memory the ones mentioned in previous comments are good ones, but it took reminding me.

    • Thanks, Terry. It seems that our treatment of “old” extends to not only our buildings, but also many other aspects of culture and traditions.

      My wife is my judge of whether or not my stories have achieved “Awww.” Good luck with finding those Awww endings for your future books.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  17. Thanks for sharing Steve. Personally I love finishing things and starting fresh. That said, after my first four novels I looked back and realized that they all had similar endings, IE final scene in the hospital where at least one of the protagonists is recovering from wounds, or in one case delivering the main character’s baby.

    After that I decided to break that pattern … and just kill off the main protagonist at the end, no hospital needed.

    • Thanks, Basil, for your thoughts and comments.

      Sounds a little drastic, if you plan to kill off the protagonist in each story. Kind of ruins a series, too, or am I missing something? Or are you just doing away with the need for hospitals?

      Thanks for visiting TKZ today. Hope to see you in the future.

  18. Congratulations on another milestone in your story. I just checked to see if my father’s medical building still stands. It’s still there. Built in 1919, IIRR.

    A good ending? Asimov’s “The Robots of Dawn” comes to mind. I borrowed the title for my movie, “A Robot of Dawn.”
    My own favorite, personally, would be my abrupt ending for “A True Map of the City,” where the MC ends his trip in a way he could never have imagined.
    Another semi-planned ending? “Over the Sapphire Sea,” the sequel to “Sail Away on My Silver Dream.”
    Late to the party again, sorry. Covid has me in its omicron clutches this week.

  19. Good morning, and thanks, J. You’re never late to the party here. We simply start again in the morning. Glad to hear that your father’s medical building is still standing. That is quite an accomplishment.

    Thanks for the additions to our endings list. I’ve written your suggestions on my personal list.

    Sorry to hear you are in the clutches of Covid/Omicron. I hope you break free from those talons, with greater resistance to future infection.

    Thanks for stopping by. We appreciate your contributions here.

  20. A friend once told me, a few years before he died, “Dirt is important.” I felt this keenly through your telling here. I know you get it.

    • Thanks, RLM. You’re correct. Wasn’t that the theme of Gone With the Wind? Isn’t that why wars are fought?

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

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