So I think I finally know something about writing endings.
One of the notes I tackled in my latest revision was to make the ending more satisfying. My first thought was to run away and hide (this is often my first thought) because I had no idea how to do that. But I also knew how I had it wasn’t really working. But I couldn’t work out why.
Writers have differing opinions when it comes to outlines, plot beats, formulas etc. When I wrote my first draft I had no idea about any of that, I just typed wildly into the wind and hoped for the best. Now, many drafts later, I know a bit more. And I think plot beats are great…but it helps if you understand them.
Here’s how I thought an ending went:
Black moment: bad stuff
Climax: more bad stuff
Resolution: get the hell out of there
And here is my breakthrough (that I’m sure many of you already get): the climax is a win. Yes the MC goes through more bad stuff to get there but they should come out on top.
Now of course you can have endings where the MC doesn’t win. All endings don’t have to be happy but (as the lovely Patrick Ness says) they should be truthful. But for me I needed a win.
So here is my new ending:
Black moment: the lowest point for MC
Rebuilding: MC slowly rebuilds from BM. This point was crucial for me. I was able to resolve most of the threads of conflict and build my MC up for the climax
Climax: MC faces and defeats main conflict
Resolution: Tie up remaining threads (you don’t have to resolve everything but there should be a feeling of momentum that the characters will be working stuff out off the page)
End: hopefully with a killer last line
Since I’m writing contemporary it helped me to sub antagonist or final battle for conflict. (Conflict can be anything – broken relationships, internal fears, different opinions etc.) Before I added in the section to ‘rebuild’ I’d just dumped heaps of bad stuff on my MC and left myself with barely any room for resolution. Now I’m left with only a couple of things to resolve.
And there you go. What do you think? I bet you already knew that, right?
Here’s some extra reading:
The End: Talking About Endings — And Not Just the Big One
The End is Near: What Makes a Good Ending?
No Joy: The Worst That Can Happen Isn’t Always Best for the Story
How to Plot With the Three-Act Structure
Yep, Janice Hardy is my yoda.