Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Endings”

To the Bitter End

To the Bitter End l Red Lettering

Last week, we went over Three Ways to Not Start a Novel. The most logical next step would be to move on to the actual writing of the story, the things to do or to not do when we are ready to step into the main part of the story.

Because this would be the most logical step, the most obvious thing to happen here would be to not do it. Instead of the middle, let’s pretend we’ve had enough time to learn all about the main part of the novel; now we’re ready to learn about the end of the novel.

The end of the novel is perhaps one of the most important parts of the novel. The beginning is important because it is the doorway into your novel; the end is important because it is the doorway out. As we’re stepping out the door, the things that go on then and there will shape our whole memory of the book when we look back on it. It’s the last thing we see and one of the most clear things we’ll remember.

We don’t want our readers to hate the end of the book. Sometimes we want our readers to be sad at the end of our books; to sit there with a half-smile on their faces, holding the book tightly as they remember the great adventure they went through, and to feel disappointed that it’s over. Yet anger and sadness are different. By the time your reader has reached the end of the book, they’ve spent time on the book. By simply the fact that they’ve made it that far shows that they decided at one point to keep reading, to make it to the end with these characters. By the time they reach the end of the book, they’re ready for a great conclusion—and we don’t really want to disappoint them.

“To the bitter end!” Say the readers, and while hopefully they would be willing to go with the character even if the end did get bitter for the character, hopefully the way the story ends doesn’t end up being so bitter for the readers that they vow to never read any more of your books—and be serious about it.

Things to Avoid

Upon thinking of things to avoid or things to do when ending novels, I’m afraid that the first things that enter my head are those to avoid. So, as we did with the beginnings, we shall go over three ways to not end stories.

The dream. Dreams are splendid. I like dreams. Dreams come back again and again in IOTW as part of the plot. But waking up from a dream is not a good ending. At the moment, I can’t think of any time when I actually read a book like this, but I thought I ought to make that clear. If ever there is a moment when you are tempted to end your novel with, “And then she woke up—it had all been a dream!” Please, please do not. When we reach the end, we’ve invested emotional energy in your characters, ended up wanting to know how the story ends, and if authors try to wind it up with the it was all a dream line, we feel cheated. We will spend the next half-hour banging our head on the desk.

Someone Else Saves the Day. This one, I have seen done. When it came to the climax, the two main characters who we had all grown to love throughout the book ended up staying off to the side while a random, newly introduced character saved the day. By the time I had finished the novel I was left with a blank look and an irritation with the writer. We read the novel not because of the plot. We read because of the characters, most specifically the main characters. Even with the most splendid, thrilling plots, the author has failed if we don’t care what happens to the character. We want to see the character do whatever they’re supposed to do, learn whatever they’re supposed to learn, and come away triumphant.

When another character is introduced simply to save the day, we don’t find what we’re looking for. Even when the main character still ends up doing whatever they’re supposed to do, ect., it makes the story seem awkward and the plot seem disconnected from the characters. This is not what we, as authors, are aiming for.

The Saccharine-Sweet Ending. “And then, everything falls into place. The character saves the day and comes away with minor (if any) injuries, everything’s splendid, the danger’s taken care of, hip-hip-hooray.” We want to see grit. We want to see struggle; we might even want to see the character reach the point when all hope is lost. We want to have all of the adventure, all of the drama, all of the danger of the whole story magnified just before the ending, so that when it ends, when the character is victorious, it doesn’t ring hollow.

Things to Attempt

Let your reader go with your character the whole way, until the threat is vanquished. Let the character learn what they’re supposed to learn; let them do what they need to do to save the world. Make it hard. Make it count.

And then bring it to a conclusion. I know that some of you like cliffhanger endings, but every time I read one, I can’t say I enjoy it, and not because I’m anxious for the next one to come out. Cliffhangers, to me, feel like cheap excuses for not actually concluding the story. If you would like to draw one novel entirely together again, and then end on a cliffhanger note, do have at it, but please, conclude your book.

It’s slightly more difficult to provide examples on how to end books, as that would be the best way to give out spoilers in the world… So I simply let you go out. Find the endings that you liked. Find the ones that touched you, the ones you loved, the ones you felt were done incredibly well. Your assignment for this week is to go out and figure out what makes you like an ending. You can post it in the comments, if you’d like.


Note: Tomorrow is the end of the Get to Know Your Characters Challenge: Antagonist. If you’re going to participate, please remember to post it on your blog today or early tomorrow, and pass me the link to your blog through email or in a comment here.

The Obligatory Happily-Ever-After

You’ve heard me state that I write for hope. Some of you have, anyway; for those of you who missed it when I said it earlier— I write for hope.  That, I have found, is one driving force in all of my stories. Hope is not dead, and this world’s darkness is not all there is.

This makes endings massively important, and I’ve developed some very strong views about how endings should or should not work.


The Obligatory Happily Ever After

There’s a trend going around these days—beginning somewhere around Shakespeare’s time or earlier—encouraging depressing endings. “It’s more realistic,” they say. “There’s no happy endings in real life.

Indeed, being realistic in stories can be very good. These people assume one thing, though: that happy endings aren’t realistic. I know of many happy endings in real life, both in my life and in the lives of others. My savior died to rescue me, that I could live eternally, but He didn’t stay dead and evil didn’t conquer. My dad should have been in the building where a terrorist attacked several years ago, but a meeting he was in ran late so he didn’t get to work on time. There have been many happy endings to historical events, but most of you probably know those, so I shan’t go into them at the moment. Happy endings don’t necessarily mean the very end of a story. In most novels that you’ll read or write, the people will go on to live longer lives than the book shows, and yes, they’re most likely going to have troubles, but that doesn’t mean that their story hasn’t ended happily.

There are a million different kinds of happy endings, so to summarize, I simply define a happy ending as an ending that isn’t tragic. When I say I’m for happy endings, I’m in reality saying that I’m against tragic ones.

Let’s go back to the basics of tragic endings, folks. In short, what the writers is trying to make happen is this:

Step One: Make the reader fall in love with the character.

Step Two: Give the reader something to want for the character, something that the character desperately needs. (For example: a friend, salvation, survival, ect.)

Step Three: End the story with the opposite of what the reader wants. (For example: If your character needed a friend, have them betrayed by the one person they trusted and sink into lifelong depression. The End.)

Maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated; I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of tragedies and so don’t read very many of them.

A little while ago, I accidentally came across one when watching a television show with the rest of my family. We had watched two seasons of the show with all of us, even the youngest, around. When a show came up about a man with an addiction to a medicine after he had hated himself for years when he ran from a battle, I wasn’t too concerned; in the past, they had done a show about a man who had an addiction to alcohol, and they had handled that fairly well.

The writer and director of the show very carefully made us like him before ending the episode with the man committing suicide. Thank you for the uplifting episode, writers.

When we end a story, there are two things our audience can take away from it. They can take away hope when the story made them smile and built them up, or they can go away feeling heavy and discouraged. 

What concerned me very much with that episode was what if someone who had that problem watched it?  The character had a problem which the writers, whether purposefully or not, told their viewers was hopeless. The television show was wide-spread, and there’s a large chance that someone who needed something to lift them up and tell them that there was hope in that situation watched the show and came away feeling shocked and altogether numb, asking themselves, “Is that the only way it can end?” 

It’s not the only way it can end. There is hope.

Whenever you publish something, someone will read it. Someone will be affected by it, and someone will come away changed.

Words change worlds.

When people go in to see a movie, or open a book and start reading, they let their guard down almost entirely. If you tell them something, they’ll believe it. If you tell them that this world is terrible and there’s not point to living, they’ll believe it; if you tell them that there is hope and death isn’t the end, they’ll believe it. They might not believe it immediately, but your words are going to change the way they look at life.

In particular, your endings will change people. What message are you sending?

I’m not saying to have your stories be all fluff and happiness. The world is broken. We are living in a terrible place and time, but there’s more. There’s more than tragedy and death; there’s life, too. At the end, when we draw everything together, it’s important to let your readers know that this world isn’t the end, the death isn’t the end, the hurt isn’t the end.

Words change worlds. And people. And hearts. How are your words affecting people? 

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