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Author Topic: Endings
Member # 8082

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What do you do when you can't find an ending. This has never happened to me before. Always before an ending was preplanned and obvious. I knew how the story would end but this story is stumping me. It wants to go on and on. I've even made a list of seventeen possible story endings and they all look feasible too me. Aaaaah!
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Member # 7299

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Then try one of those 'let the reader decide' type of stories. You know,

If you think Frodo should give the ring to Smeagle turn to page 91. If you think Frodo should tell Smeagle to get out of his face and go jump into the lava turn to page 62

...this way you can put all 17 endings into one story!

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited April 03, 2010).]

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Member # 8082

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LOL! I used to love those as a kid.

I found an ending now and I think it fits the best.

[This message has been edited by satate (edited April 03, 2010).]

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Member # 6044

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If they all "can" fit according to the characters, plot etc. Ask yourself, which gives the most satisfying result in regards to the contract shown at the beginning? Alternatively, which best gives the meaning that I really think the story implies? Which best fits your values?
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Member # 7664

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Why don't you give the unfinished piece to a reader or two and ask them what they think the ending should be or what they expect to happen. It may give you some clues as to which direction is right. you can either fulfill their expectations in some fashion or defy them.
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Member # 9027

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Addressed not to satate but, em, to my fellow (mostly-)lurkers:

Someone with lots of writing experience could probably offer useful suggestions.

However, I'm just an armchair literary theorist.

It seems a lot of gifted writers are pantsers. (Others are more so plan-aheaders -- but both camps end up achieving similar goals, in the end, right? That is, writers approach plotting either by the seat of their pants or planning it out ahead of time.)

At my side is this library book about a system for a beginner to HYPERLY plan out a novel; it's by Evan Marshall -- __ THE MARSHALL PLAN WORKBOOK: WRITING YOUR NOVEL FROM START TO FINISH __. Marshall says in essense **figure out what the lead's quest is and then plot toward its being achieved.** His book's actual, accompanying worksheet for this:

The genre of the novel I am creating is_____________________________
The lead is a ... _____________________________

__ - Appropriate for target genre?
__ - Interesting to you?
__ - Interesting to readers, in your best judgment?
__ - Fresh and original, to the best of your knowledge?

In response to the crisis, my lead decides to__________

__ - Most logical under the circumstances?
__ - Believable that achievement of this goal will solve the crisis?
__ - Will cause lead to try to gain possession or relief?
__ - If lead fails, he/she will suffer terrible consequences?
__ - Life without achieving this goal and solving the crisis would be unthinkable?
__ - Worthy, high-minded motivation?
__ - Pits lead against great odds?

Hmm. Wow. A satisfying ending apparently must really bring closure to a story's underlying conflicts in some way, h'em? Somehow. And, to paraphrase the eleven points of Marshall's two-part checklist, such a climax must (1) fit with whatever is the genre (2) appeal to the author (3) be thought likely to appeal to readers (4) be thought to be "fresh and original" (5) be organic/realistic/"logical" (6) satisfy underlying conflicts (7) have the story's protag(s) be thought to have "gain[ed] possession or relief" of something or another (8) be such that "terrible consequences" must result otherwise (9) be such that life without it is "unthinkable" (10) result -- that is, unless the hero is an ANTI-hero -- from motivations that are "high-minded," and (11) be something that overcomes "great odds."


* * *

However, when I was at the library, I skimmed and sped-read __ THE PLOT THICKENS: EIGHT WAYS TO BRING FICTION TO LIFE __ by Noah Lukeman, who is a fairly "literary" of a fiction-writing guru. Lukeman's book's appendix contains this alphabetized list of nine recommended books on writing, which runs like this.

OSC's (...well, duh!) __ CHARACTERS & VIEWPOINT __
Kress, Nancy's __ DYNAMIC CHARACTERS __
Naylor, Phyllis Reynold's __ THE CRAFT OF WRITING THE NOVEL __
Sloane, William's __ THE CRAFT OF WRITING __
Tobias, Ronald's __ 20 MASTER PLOTS __

. . . . . "Aha!" I noted to myself, "Kress is said to be a HUGE pantser! Maybe SHE knows what to do or can give advice/help brainstorm how to grab up plot threads into a reasonably satisfying ending!"

I just now went and used Amazon's "Look inside!" feature to glance at the introduction to Kress's __ BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES AND ENDS: HOW TO GET YOUR STORIES OFF TO A ROARING START, KEEP THEM TIGHT AND CRISP THROUGHOUT, AND END THEM WITH A WALLOP -- (a title, incidentally, that it seems quite a few readers swear by, on such forums as Amazon and Good Reads http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68317.Beginnings_Middles_Ends ). And, I read (quote):

[...] Finally there is the story that sustains interest right to the last scene. The reader is racing along, dying to know how it all comes out or what it all means. But she never does. Instead she finds a resolution that leaves major plot lines hanging or is out of character or doesn't seem to add up to anything meaningful, or trails off into pseudosymbolism that doesn't seem connected to events of the story. [...] Many such stories receive requests for an editorial rewrite, since the editor doesn't want to believe that such promising fireworks fizzle out. The request spotlights the problem but doesn't solve it.

"Hmm...." Now I gotta read Kress's book!"

[This message has been edited by WraithOfBlake (edited April 07, 2010).]

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Member # 2733

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One bit of advice I've heard is that the end is in the beginning, and that if you are not sure how to end it, the problem could very well be in the beginning.

This is a point where you could examine your premise and put it to good use as an editing tool if you are so inclined. First, if you haven't thought about the story's premise, just figuring that out should reduce the list of possible endings. There are three basic types of endings: protagonist succedes, protagonist fails, protagonist has mixed success/failure. The premise should at least steer you to one of those outcomes. Then if you take the premise and tighten the story around it, perhaps additional candidate endings can be discarded.

If you still have several options, try to determine which would be preceeded by the highest level of dramatic tension and result in the most satisfying resolution.

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Member # 9027

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For what it may be worth [and, em, well, perhaps that's nothing!], I've read the third section of Kress's book that covers endings now.

She says she tends to writes many drafts, often putting her stuff down and returning to it later with fresh eyes. In any case, the following anecdote sort of encapsulates her section on "Ends" in her writing "how-to" book, I think. She had written this particular short story, she says, but nobody would publish it. Years later, she took it back out, re-examed it and somewhat recast the whole thing, giving it a more satisfying ending. (Which, in general, as she has explained, is to "fulfill the promises" made in the opening of a story and to bring successes and failures to the various threads of conflict within the story's middle. Or something like that.) The story was published and won awards.

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