For today’s writing Definition of the Week, as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page, we’ve done it! Or just about done it. All we need to do is write our story’s ending, and then that’s it.
We’ve completed our first draft!
That combined sense of accomplishment and exhilaration is heady. And I’m not about to tell you not to enjoy it. All I’d like to do with this particular blog post is offer some guidance as you plot (not plod) down the homestretch.
I mean, let’s face it. While you’ll have plenty of room for editing your story in the coming weeks and months, it’s always best to start out from a place of understanding. Which is why we want to know what an ending really is before we begin it.
Here’s the definition…
The ending of your story is the conclusion – the spot in your narrative where you bring everything to an official close. That’s all she (or he) wrote, and then your tale is done.
There are plenty of endings to choose from, whether they’re happily-ever-afters or teasers/cliffhangers, comedic or tragic, thought-provoking or entertaining.
It all depends on the writer’s mood and intent when he or she finishes things up.
Simple enough, right? In fact, you might even be thinking “duh” right now. But there’s actually a lot to endings – as we’ll discover with Thursday’s Challenge and Friday’s Rule. So if you’re rolling your eyes in boredom right now, don’t worry. It’ll get more thought-provoking in a few days.
In the meanwhile, let’s just break down the different kinds of endings you can provide your readers.
Happily-Ever-After: Usually employed in fairytales and romances, this is where everything concludes absolutely – even unrealistically – well. The love interests have found each other and are headed toward wedded bliss, and there’s nary a storm cloud in the sky. In fact, there’s no mention of storm clouds since, as far as readers are meant to be concerned, all the plot’s problems have been resolved and are never to be mentioned again.
Teaser: Writers often employ a casual teaser when they’re thinking about writing a second book in the series but aren’t quite ready to commit to another manuscript. Leaving some significant aspect open (e.g., one unhatched dinosaur egg after all the rampaging raptors have been eliminated, or the villain still out there on the loose as the happy couple swoons in each other’s arms) on the last page keeps readers wondering about what might happen next well after they’ve closed your book.
Cliffhanger: You know that feeling of shock and horror you get after watching an episode of your favorite TV show, where the good guy’s just about to bite the big one – and then the credits roll? That’s the kind of ending we’re talking about here. It’s called a cliffhanger for a reason: because it leaves your emotions stranded somewhere close to the top of a very tall vertical plot with no way of getting back down and no way of finishing the climb until the writers throw you a rope. Cliffhangers are jerky endings (I can say that since I’ve employed them myself), but they certainly keep audiences salivating for the next installment. And from a reader’s perspective, there’d better be a next installment!
Comedic vs. Tragic: I’m employing the classical definitions of the words here. Does your story end with a wedding or a death? That’s how Shakespeare would have understood the terms, though admittedly, there’s plenty of room between those extremes these days. A more modern interpretation might be happy vs. sad. Truth be told – and we’ll get more into this later – this really needs to go along with how you started the story out.
Thought-Provoking vs. Entertaining: What’s the main point of your narrative? As the writer, are you trying to make people think? Or is your sole purpose to let them kick back, relax and enjoy a fun or exciting read? If it’s the former, then think of some poignant statement to either make or work into your last few paragraphs. If it’s the latter, then the floor is open to your writing mind.
If that feels like a lot to consider, don't worry. We're going to keep working on strengthening your story ending on Thursday.