Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Creating satisfying endings

So, we all know that the beginnings to our books have to be stellar.  They have to grab the reader and throw them into the car for the ride.  But how much do you think about your ending?  There are so many ways to fail an ending.

I took a creative writing class in high school.  It was my junior year and the year was full of drama that I won't go into.  But, of all the instructions we ever had on requirements for our projects in creative writing, there were only 2 "hard and fast" rules.  1- Don't kill your hero.  2- Don't make it all a dream.

Now, I am a firm believer in rules in certain areas of life.  But writing?  I just want to throw "rules" out the window.

Let's take an example.  Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show.  I'm far too young to have watched these in their original runs.  (Thank you Nick at Nite.)  I've never watched much of the former, but I remember watching the latter in its reruns.

The latter ended by making the entire show into a dream on the former.  Why did this work when the "rule" is not to make things a dream?  It worked because it brought together loved characters, and it gave a satisfying end to two different shows.  Viewers loved the twist, they loved seeing the old set an the old characters.  But they'd also gotten this wonderful ride with very different, yet equally real, characters.

As for the killing of your hero, well, my mom and I both thought that would happen with the Monk finale.  It was a two-part finale and a very satisfying end to the show.

I don't want to give away anything, but let's just say that the overriding plot of the entire 8 seasons was wrapped up and a certain amount of normalcy returned to everyone's lives.  Each character that we've come to know and love over the years got their own HEA ending.  How did they do it?  Monk solved his wife's murder, other characters got their own normal relationships, the monkey on the back was taken away, and all characters have now lived happily ever after.

So, how to make a satisfying ending?  Make it make sense with everything you've written.  Monk wouldn't have been a satisfying ending if he hadn't solved his wife's murder.  That had been hanging over him for the entire 8 seasons of the show.  Now it's done.  He can move on with his life.

Whatever your ending, it has to make sense with how things go.  I've found myself in a J.K. Rowling scenario as I plan out all three books of the Sunstone trilogy.  And it's hard, but for the immediate now I can't foresee a way of making it turn out any differently.  I've gone through many different possible endings to the trilogy in my head, but they just don't gel with how I've got things planned.  Characters don't feel right in the scenarios I've imagined and I have to be true to that.

In the end, if you remain true to the characters you've created the ending will be satisfying, regardless of how happy or tragic it may be.

Now, on to other news.  This week I am celebrating (belatedly) the one-year anniversary of my blog.  Yesterday we had a really great contest.  There were quite a few entries.  The winner was incredibly hard to select.  I can't ever do a merit-based one again!  Seriously you guys are amazing!

Without further ado, the winner is....

Embee with her sonnet to golly gee dingoes!  (Hope you don't mind me posting it here!)  Of all the entries, hers made me laugh the absolute most.  To the point where I might have gotten my keyboard wet.  All the entries were fabulous.  Please don't be discouraged if you didn't win in this one.  There are four (five) other chances to win this week!

Here is Embee's sonnet.

Golly Gee Dingoes

Golly gee, dingoes, you’re yellow brown dogs.

Your cousins are foxes, wolves, and jackals.

You’re roughly a household pooch analog,

And yet you’re nothing but wild animals.

Your home is down under, outback of course.

Being good carnivores you like to eat meat,

And you’re rarely picky about its source.

Even livestock, pets, small people you’d eat.

Those Aussies they find you an awful pest,

But truly I think you’re just misunderstood.

As wild pests go, you must be the best,

After all you eat other pests, isn’t that good?

So golly gee dingoes, you got a bad rap,

Perhaps they would like you elsewhere on the map.

Today's prize is a collection of up to three poems on topics of your choosing.  I promise to get these written as soon as possible, but I will take the time necessary to make sure they're quality and something I can be proud of.  To win today, all you have to do is comment with your most groan-inducing pirate joke.  Then I'll put all the jokes into random.org and pick a winner that way.

Embee, e-mail me an address I can send those to and I'll get them off post-haste.



  1. I think endings are the hardest part of writing for me. Because I don't typically have the HEA. My books end sort of dark, with twists and my MC isn't really getting what they want. But that's how they come out. And so far, it's been working for me.

  2. Stephanie - Thanks for the win! I'm not much of a poet, but I love sonnets and find them fascinating to compose.

    As for endings, I'm in the same boat as you, trying to figure out an ending for a trilogy that allows my bad guy to live HEA. Not so easy. My lovely hubby, the "idea man," as I love to call him, helped me out and now I have an ending that's believable within the framework of the story and although the bad guy is definitely punished, he also gets to be salvaged. Good luck with your ending!!

    I'll e-mail you with my address and thanks again!

  3. That was a great little ditty about dingoes. :)

    Endings are hard- I hope I finally have mine right!

  4. I read and write crime fiction, and what seems important here is that loose ends are tied up and order is restored.

    The ending doesn't necessarily have to be happy or sad, but questions should be answered, killers apprehended, things are set right.

    Nothing turns a mystery fan off faster than ending that leave you with more questions than answers. The wrap up (bad guy to jail or bad guy killed in a shoot out or or or) is open as long as it fits with the main character's moral code and with the plot as it has unfolded.

    Cop-out endings, like dreams, or likediscovering an identical twin separated at birth from the prime suspect is unforgiveable.

    Cheers, Jill
    "Blood and Groom" is now in stores!

  5. Endings are hard. I think I have more trouble with not rushing than with tying up loose ends though.

    Way to go to the winner! Making people life is such a great quality! :D


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