General Discussion

Awright, last things first...(writer responses needed!)
Banes at 9:45AM, June 22, 2014
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Hey!

QUACKCAST One Seventy-somethin' - Last Things First

For an upcoming Quackcast, we're going to revisit the world of writing and talk about ENDINGS.

Whether it's ending an entire series, or a story arc, or chapter, what are your thoughts on endings?

How do you go about ending a story or chapter well? Is it hard for you? Do you write your endings first, or do you find your way there along with your characters?

Is the ending the most important, make-or-break part of a story?

What makes a good ending? What makes a terrible ending?

I was thinking more of longer form stories, but if you have thoughts on ending a 2 to 4 panel gag strip or even a scene, that counts too!

What are some examples of great endings? What are some not-so-great examples? What made them good? What made them suck?

As always, we're looking forward to anything you have to say.

Talk to ya soon, Ducks!
Genejoke at 11:42AM, June 22, 2014
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I often find endings hard.  for a chapter not so much but to end a story with a genuine resolution and impact… that I find harder.
I recently finished the forst story of Lore, I had it roughly planned out from the strt.  i knew what the“action” would go, however there was little emotional motivation, the characters were just on a pay day, there was no emotional involvement.  except when a characters life was hanging in the balance.  I had the “big fight” but the emotional impact came after that.  Essentially the main host of bad guys are beaten and as the heroes return to where they left their injured comrades the find that have been attacked.  I ended the chapter with the heroes heading home having won the day but the fate of a couple of characters unanswered.  
Shameless plug.
http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Lore/
A couple of years ago I had a similar issue with Equivocate, the story was a mission with no personal involvement, and while one character was hurt there was no real danger of them dying.   it had an action packed end but lacked impact.  Which is largely why the comic took a prolonged hiatus after.  but it is back but only updates slowly…  shameless plug.
http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/EquivocateTD/
Where as BASO is a lot easier, the short chapters and shifting setting, combined with ongoing nature make it easier.  Bringing Harriets story to an end (of sorts) was easy, it wasn't an end but I wanted to get her to a place where we could leave her for a prolonged time and it not be an issue.  Usually BASO chapters end on a cliffhanger, which works perfectly for the format.
The ending is important but it has to work in conjunction with the other aspects of the story.  A bad ending can ruin a great story.  See Dexter for a prime example.  at the end of season seven things were primed to change dramatically and for the beginning of season eight it seemed they did, but insead of giving it a decent conclusion it just ended suddenly with Dexter  (SPOILERSS)
ended with dexer faking his death and becoming a lumberjack.  no resolution for supporting charactera at all.
Spoilers end.
Breaking bad hit the end strong.  we all knew roughly how it had to end, but it gave us that and a few surprises to keep it interesting.
last edited on June 22, 2014 11:47AM
usedbooks at 5:52PM, June 22, 2014
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I'm bad at endings. I guess that's why Used Books has a soap opera feel most of the time. :P I cliffhanger scenes, and pages, and apparently chapters and storylines. I really hate stories that do that. But I do that. I also recently noticed the bad guys “win” more often than not. I think I'm my least favorite kind of writer.
 
In terms of comic strips, those are much easier in structure, and the few times I make one, I usually have the punchline first. Then I come up with  setup. In a three-panel strip, I usually have intro-setup-punchline, but sometimes I have setup-punchline-terrible pun.
 
Endings are very important to me in what I watch or read.  I'm a “happy ending” kind of person. I think things wrapped up nicely. I like absolutely no dangling plot points, no stupid set-ups for sequels, and no bittersweet crap that leaves me in a confused emotional state.  I also like an ending to surprise in a good way.  Basically, when I go to a movie, while watching it unfold, I think about the way I'd like things to end. If the ending is cheap or worse than that, I usually leave unfulfilled. If the writers do what I'd like, I'm happy. But the best ones are when the ending was something I'd never have thought of and better than I could come up with. Any story should peak to a good climax. I don't like the strongest parts in the center. I like it to feel like the best part is in the middle and then it gets better.  
 
 
 
 
I think my best example for the proper build-up is not a movie or book but a game. Specifically, I'm thinking of Dragon Quest 8. The story builds while you are chasing a nasty murderous bad guy and then you fight him. It's epic and feels like story climax. But that's only, like,the first chapter. It builds up again and there are two or three times you think you're reaching the story finale. The next part builds up from the last. A love a story that has building climaxes like that. Mostly, I see it in games or miniseries. Sometimes in books. Action movies tend to have the multiple climax scenes down but they don't build on each other. The “final fight” is sometimes a let-down compared to earlier action sequences. (Jackie Chan movies seem to get it right. At least they tend to peak with the final fight.)
last edited on June 22, 2014 5:53PM
usedbooks at 5:56PM, June 22, 2014
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Multiple climaxes. Heh. Heh.
 
 
 Sorry. It's been a long day.
ozoneocean at 7:46PM, June 22, 2014
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Endings are the hardest part of a story!
I have all sorts of great, unformed ideas for endings in Pinky TA, but by the time I get to them I'm over it and find it really hard to put in as much energy as I did for the rest of the story, plus you forget all your good ideas and subtlties.
 
Banes and I chatted about this at the end of the last Quackcast and he suggested doing the ending first, which is a brilliant idea! You can always modify it later, but if you've got something like that that's solid to work towards it could make things much easier, and you can build on it and change its structure afterwards to take into account and story twists you didn't expect along the way.
It could also help you keep more focussed when doing a long story.
 
If it needs changing completely though… so be it. Shit happens :)
One of the most important things about creating stuff is being able to chuck stuff away if needed.
 
As a cosumer of media I appreciate all sorts of endings- cliff hangers, sudden endings, long drawn out ends, unsatisfying ends, fade outs, massive climaxes, circular ends…
Circular endings are fun (we end where we start), in that they're easy to satisfy people with intelectually and emotionally and they're “cheap” and easy to write. Because they're so simple I sometimes feel they're a bit of a cop-out, but they are a useful tool for your writing arsenal!
 
My FAVE ending type are the big bonus endings you get in some anime, some novels, and even a few films: The story comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion and ends… but then we come back and see a nice end for each character and storyline, even if it was just a super minor storyline or character, plus things like photo montages of what happened to them afterwards. Now THOSE are satisfying!
If you did that in your comic as a way of finishing off a long chapter you can explore new storyline ideas that way or even preview them for people.
 
One more thing- when I end big chapters I TRY to do bonus things… though Pinky TA ALWAYS ends on a downer. In one case I did a giant infinate convas page (that this current version of DD fucks up because of that moronic idea to auto shrink all pages because of width. Fuck you DD), then I added a further bonus which was a short animated cartoon thing… which DD fucked up AGAIN because flash suppirt was removed (seriously DD, I admin this place, why do you hate me?).
The latest ending I did was a bit of the infinate canvas thing but working within the limitations of the cureent DD setup they're vertical scrollers instead: two extra long pages.
 
usedbooks at 6:50AM, June 23, 2014
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I love those “bonus” endings too. Another thing some of my favorite anime series have done is have a poignant finale episode that doesn't necessarily tie up loose ends but is beautifully written for dramatic pacing. Then they follow that up with an extra episode, movie, or short OVA that has its own storyline but also ties up those loose ends.
 
 
Off the top of my head, Eden of the East and Baccano do that well. Eden of the East's wrapping up movies are a little dry compared to the eposodic series. The final episode has wonderful pacing. Even though it has the “not finished” feel, it leaves anticipation. I am glad they wrapped it up though. Without the movies, it would feel like a cheap cop-out. Baccano's follow-up has a nice “where are they now and where could they go next” thing. And the series kinda breaks the fourth wall at the end – which is how they began it – by having two outside observing characters draw attention to the fact that it doesn't have an ending. (In the beginning they basically describe the weird narrative order of the story.)
last edited on June 23, 2014 6:51AM
Gunwallace at 1:01PM, June 23, 2014
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When I use THE BANES METHOD to write plots the ending seems to come naturally.  THE BANES METHOD gives rise to those false endings where all seems lost, and then where it all seems worse than the first time you thought all was lost, and then “Abracababra!” the ending pops out and you think to yourself, “Wow, I'm clever.”  Except you're not clever. THE BANES METHOD did all the work for you. THE BANES METHOD.  Try it today. (warning, do not try the Banes method if you are alreay pregnant with ideas. Only take the Bane method as directed since excessive use can make you endings seem trite and predictable. Always consult Banes if writing constipation continues.)  THE BANES METHOD. It unclogs writers block like a prune smoothie!
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
ozoneocean at 9:26PM, June 23, 2014
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The BANES METHOD stopped me getting pregnant.
 
bravo1102 at 6:16AM, June 24, 2014
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Hey when it comes to endings why not someone
with a pile of finished comics?  I've said before that I need a beginning,
middle and an ending or else I never finish.  I need to know there's an
end to the creative arc and when I can walk away. I have difficulty doing
shorts of six pages and continue stories on forever.  However I do end them and always start
writing with an ending in mind.  Whether
it is the one I end up using is something else entirely. My most recently
concluded comic Interstellar Blood Beasts had the ending
completely rewritten and much changed halfway through the run.  It didn't satisfy me.
I once hated ambiguous endings or ones where
the bad guys win.  An example being the old they defeat the vampires and
the heroine turns to the hero and has fangs.  There's also the infamous
heroic sacrifice endings where everybody dies.  Hero, villain and nearly
everyone else just a couple of survivors to wonder at it all.  Some
examples are Japanese ronin tales and many world war II movies.  Some of my
drafts have those endings in mind and I changed it. Or not. Attack
of the Robofemoids. There is something
satisfying by ending the story with the death of the last character.
I like happy endings. I like satisfying
endings that wrap up on the main plot points.  However, over time I've
realized it's not necessary to wrap up everything and it is okay to be
ambiguous, indeed it is even intriguing. 
Gives an ending some bite.  I have
shamelessly set up sequels, like in the Robo-femoid series.  I had the
sequels in mind before I finished the first script!  It's a B-movie
franchise so it has to have sequels and I shamelessly set them up.  The
ending of Battle of is a classic of "we were in space and now
it's earth's turn! Twilight Zones Planet
of the Vampires

Mask of the Aryans has a tie-up with a screen crawl giving brief future
fates of the survivors and there even could have been an OVA with a couple of
the bits presented.  . Some favorites of
mine were are the classic tie-ups at the end of American
Graffiti and Animal House. Daniel Simpson Day: whereabouts unknown.. Douglas C.
Neidermeyer: Killed in Vietnam
by his own troops.
I've done a lot of different endings.I just
finished a script with the classic Deus ex machina. When doing a contrived story it
can be fun to do a contrived ending.  I like the cavalry arriving just in
time.  I once ruined a perfectly good
Lovecraftian story by having the US Navy SEALs rescue the protagonists.  No one did Lovecraft stories like that so I
figured I'd do one.  Sometimes the
cavalry does get there you know. I'm a writer, I like to have fun.  But that
being said too many twists ruin the story.  Doing a twist ending just to
do a twist ending is annoying.  I'm too
savvy a viewer to be fooled by most twist endings and can often see the glaring
plot holes that make the twists silly and unlikely or can add up the hints that
presaged a good twist ending.  I think
I'm one of the few people who actually understood the ending of Tim Burton’s
remake of Planet of the Apes.  Read the book kiddies.
last edited on June 24, 2014 8:17AM
KimLuster at 1:35PM, June 24, 2014
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Other types of endings are going be covered very well by all Da Supah-Smart Duckers out there so I'll just go over the kind of ending that could have some play in my comic, the Godstrain: the ‘Dream’ Ending.

Dream Endings occur when, at the end of the story, much of previous plot is revealed (or mused about being) a dream.  If handled properly, I LOVE such stories.  If improperly, my loathing knows no bounds.  Some examples (warning: *spoilers for several movies*):

Good Dream endings:
*Inception: Movie full of moments when they know they're in a dream, but the dreams are so realistic that each person has a ‘totem’, a normal item that behaves in a peculiar way, so that the ‘dreamer’ can use it to determine if they're really in a dream.  The main protagonist Cob's totem is a spinning top.  At the end of the movie, Cob meets up with his kids, and he spins the top, and the movie ends with the top still spinning, implying that Cob might still be dreaming.  It's masterfully done. If you haven't seen this movie I highly recommend it.

* Total Recall: Quaid has to consider that he might be in an induced dream, and at one point he is forced to make a irrevocable decision, that, if he really is dreaming, will make so he can never ‘wake’ from it.  It's an existential leap of faith with life-altering consequences.  At the end of the movie, he sardonically muses that what if it really is all a dream after all… and that's all he can do.  He can never really ‘know’ and that makes all the difference

Bad Dream Endings:
*Jacob's Ladder: Main character is a ‘Nam Vet, and he starts having visions of the worse kind imaginable.  Contains some of the most fantastically disturbing scenes and creatures ever put on film.  He goes to counseling meetings with other vets.  His gal saves him from burning fever by immersing him in ice water, all kinds of interesting stuff, and at the end…  He dies… under a Medical Tent… in Vietnam.  He was dreaming about being a Vietnam vet, dreaming all the weird imagery.  He was starting to deduce that what was happening to him might be a by-product of Gov’t body tampering (fantastic premise)!  And the whole time he'd never even left Vietnam!!! It was all Just a dream, right before he dies..!  Really?!?!  

*Boxing Helena: I was big Julian Sands fan, and also big fan of the music of Enigma.  This movie had both, so it was a must-see.  Main character is all infatuated with this girl, but she not so much for him.  She has a car wreck.  He saves her, but has to amputate her legs.  He keeps her in his house but she resents him and is violent towards him.  He puts her to sleep and amputates her arms too.  Amazingly, they reconcile and he considers her beautiful (like the limbless Venus statue) - they even share some creepy romantic moments.  Then, her former boyfriend deduces where she is, comes to rescue her, but she chooses to stay with her captor.  Yeah, interesting, but if you think it's too messed up, don't worry!  Because… He wakes up at the hospital where he'd carried her after rescuing her from the car wreck.  He'd dreamt the whole thing while nodding off in the waiting room!  Gaahhhh!

If you're going to have a dream ending, handle it with extreme care.  Otherwise it's an ass-pull; you're pulling the rug out from under your audience…  And I'll hate you forever if you do it haha

So, my story, the Godstrain, has a definite ending, one I've had planned from beginning.  My story heavily involves dreams, and the philosophy of reality (how can we really know what's real), and I will try my best to make the ending something satisfying by also leaves room for musing.  If I somehow do a bad dream ending, I will personally give out my address and invite readers to come and take me out, for the greater good of web comicdom!

Thank you for your time - Dream On!
last edited on June 24, 2014 1:38PM
bravo1102 at 6:39AM, June 25, 2014
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Best dream ending ever: Occuranace at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce.  Jacob's Ladder is just a long, long extension of it.  Jacob's Ladder owes a lot to Ambrose Bierce and he's probably spinning in his grave.  Ambrose Bierce was a writer known for twist endings that were actually good.  Same with O. Henry.  Everything that is trite and contrived now was fresh and new when they did it.

There's also a Twilight Zone episode about a dreamer with a bad heart who has increasingly vivid exciting dreams and goes to a psychiatirists office after forcing himself to stay awake… (Perchance to Dream)  Really good and rod Serling is another writer who pull a good twist.

A French adaptation of Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge that won at Cannes  was also featured on Twilight Zone.  

At times it seems it all goes back to Twilight Zone.  But then Stephen King has made a career mining TZ and Outer Limits episodes for ideas.  
KimLuster at 8:09AM, June 25, 2014
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bravo1102 wrote:
Best dream ending ever: Occuranace at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce…
 
I've… never read this… but I will now!  Thanks!  I know from initial my post that this would seem to be the type of dream ending I'd label under ‘bad’, but that's not necessarily true.
 The problems with movies like Jacob's Ladder is that they throw in stuff that seems implausible if it's all ‘just a dream’.  Parts of the dream (when we don't yet know it's a dream) seem to be set in the late 70's, well after the vietnam war, yet it really feels like the late 70's, with the way the vets act, dress, how they deal with a supposed conspiracy involving experimental chemical (working with lawyers), but the protagonist never experienced the 70's - He died in a tent back in ‘Nam (likely in the late 60’s; early 70's at most).  It doesn't connect…

Now in the story you mentioned, the dream occurs in a brief moment of time right before the man's death, but he doesn't dream up implausible stuff.  An analogy to Jacob's Ladder would be if he somehow dreamed about reconstruction and carpetbaggers (events well after the civil war), which makes no sense because he died during the war (if I read the review right).

A story can be ‘just a dream’ and work, but it's got to be handled right.  One of my favorite examples is the video game American McGee's Alice.  I don't play games that much but this one I played about 10 years ago and it was good.  It's a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story, but very dark, very disturbing, and turned up to 11 (watched Spinal Tap the other night haha).  Anyway the entire story happens in Alice's head while she's in a psyche ward, but it works because it's a fantasy world that doesn't have anachronisms in it,  stuff that Alice would know nothing about.
 
last edited on June 25, 2014 8:10AM
ozoneocean at 8:11AM, June 25, 2014
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I read the Owl Creek story years and years ago, I caught the twist before it happened, because I'm fricken brilliant like that ;)
It was a pretty good story though.
 
But maybe that's something: ends you can see coming.
I don't really enjoy that, I like surprises. I bet it's hard for a writer to surpirse everyone though, there'll always be someone who can see what's going to happen.
 
One of the BEST stories I ever read in that regard was one by Jack Vance (one of my all time fave writers, I think the story was call the Old Lantern or something). The story started off really quite depressingly with this boy's mother being horrifically slain right in front of him.
As the story went on things went up and down… as with most Vance stories there was a very interesting progression as the boy grew up and learned about the world, some good things happened to him and very very bad things. Then we learn some terrible truths about the day his mum was murdered and it REALLY seemed to me like it was a completely inevitable landslade towards a really nasty, depressing, yet very neatly constructed circular ending.
So much so that I just stopped reading it and put off finishing it for a few months… I could see exactly how it would finish and it turned my stomach so I couldn't see any point in slogging through it.
 
But I eventually bit the bullet and put the time in to end it properlly. And to my surprise he completely confounded my expectations. The bastard set me up to make me feel way too smart for my own good and then punctured my hugely inflated reading ego in the nicest way possible with a pleasent Vance style buccolic ending.
 
-Love Vance's writing, set as it is on far flung worlds in space in the far future and back at the dawn of time… and yet the backdrop always seems to resemble the South Eastern states of the US… I'm guessing Lousiana. And of course evey character speaks with the most beutifully correct English.
 
KimLuster at 2:32PM, June 25, 2014
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I've never read any Jack Vance, but his stuff sounds very interesting…!  C'mon people stop giving out good stuff to read - I only have so much time haha :)
bravo1102 at 6:45PM, June 25, 2014
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For a good twist on the person who died tragically who builds her own dream world see the third season of the anime Hell Girl. (Jigoku Shojo)(available in dub as Hell Girl Three vessels?)   A little girl who starves to death wants to grow up so badly she constructs a world where she reached midle school.  Is her need for vengeance strong enough to enable her to replace Ai Enma as Hell Girl?  Hell Girl and some other Japanese horror have twists upon twists.  The Japanese do great ghost stories.  

Oh to have everyone die or to have the cavalry arrive and save the day!  That's always my conumdrum.  I have written multiple endings for nearly every comic I've done.  Attack of the Robofemoids actually had them worked in as gags. Mask of the Aryans had about four variant endings.  When I got to creating them I went for the easiest and simplest one to put together. Sometimes I ask myself if it is really worthwhile to have a complex ending or just *poof* it's over, file out of the theater please.  Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail that was not the original ending.  There really was going to be an attack on the castle, but it was changed because of budget concerns and it is a great gag.

Sometimes it's a good exercise to write out a complex ending that explains everything and then just snip off the last five pages of script or so and toss it in the bin.  Conversely when starting something, switch chapter one and two so it starts in the middle of something as opposed to expostion.
KimLuster at 8:53AM, June 27, 2014
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Those are really good ideas, bravo :)  *googling Hell Girl*
Banes at 12:27PM, June 28, 2014
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@Bravo - That's an interesting idea, to write an ending that answers everything and then cut it down. It's said that the vast majority of first draft stories/scripts can benefit from chopping off the first ten to fifteen pages (depending how long the piece is in total, I guess). Hadn't heard of that as far as endings.

Though it depends how the ending plays out - it might be the final pages that are necessary, and a lot of stuff in between that needs trimming. Withness Hot Fuzz, an awesome movie with an ending that runs much too long. Seriously. it's one of the best movies ever, but the 3rd act could have been cut in half…for starters! XD

Endings are hard, man. They have a lot of responsibilities:

Paying off the plot and answering the driving question/questions of it.
Paying off the character's arcs.
Having an emotional catharsis of some kind (paying off the thematic elements).
Paying off subplots and secondary characters.
Giving neither too little information or too much.
Not being too abrupt, or too long.
Not being predictable, cliche or trite.
But still feeling “inevitable”.

Yikes!

Another thing an ending can do to be effective is to be a sort of “funhouse mirror” version of the beginning. Even if it's subtle, an ending that has a relationship to the beginning somehow is a good idea.

I usually work out my endings first, at least roughly, and then back up to the beginning. But the ending often changes somewhat as I work out the beginning. Then as the ending gets more solid, the beginning changes too…for me it's a lot of rough outlining, just in point form, and being flexible with it. That's a good way to go, because it's easy to throw out stuff and change that outline as much as needed as I work out the story.

Remember “Adaptation”? Awesome movie. The screenwriting guru who appears in the movie tells the writer to go back into his mess of a screenplay and find the drama, and “wow ‘em in the end.” He says you can have side trips and mistakes in there, but if you wow ’em in the end, you'll be okay. The movie then has this amazing, unexpected ending (which totatlly delivers).

Great endings:

JAWS
Star Wars (the original one)
Adaptation
Shaun of the Dead
X-Men: Days of Future Past (see? I know new movies, too, sometimes…)
40 year old virgin
Halloween (Carpenter, dammit! Not Zombie)
And Then There Were None (the Agatha Christie book)

Great “final moments” that have powerful emotions to them:

Field of Dreams
Chinatown (friggin' depressing though…)
Homeward Bound (the book and the movie…I can't not cry)
When A Stranger Calls (the original): Interesting movie, with a fantastic beginning and a great ending, but a whole middle section that doesn't…really…work.
Y: The Last Man (comic series. Finally, something other than a movie!)

Didn't quite make it (in my opinion):

Django Unchained. Great movie, great ending (Django is unchained), but too long
Hot Fuzz. Ditto.
Dexter. What the hell happened? Watch it up to the end of Season 4. Amazing! Then stop.
last edited on June 28, 2014 12:37PM
Banes at 1:39PM, June 28, 2014
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The noir mystery series “True Detective” has gotten a lot of attention lately. The ending was a bit controversial; some people seemed to think the mystery wasn't epic enough, and that the villain revealed at the end was a let down.

Granted, there was a lot left unanswered in the end. In my opinion, that show was really about the characters, though. And on a character level it was a fantastic ending (fantastic all through, really. Awesome show).
El Cid at 6:01PM, June 28, 2014
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Banes wrote:
…Dexter. What the hell happened? Watch it up to the end of Season 4. Amazing! Then stop.
 
I made it through Season 3 and called it quits. Fun show, great concept, but way too much cheesy melodrama for me.
 
It's hard to come up with a good universal rule for how to end a story, but that it answers the driving question(s) that the narrative is asking, is a good place to start. It should answer the question, it should answer it in the “language” of the story, and it should draw the answer from context presented throughout the body of the story. A good ending is like the answer to a good riddle; even if you didn't see it coming, you'll be able to look back and see that's the destination all roads were heading to all along.
 
An example of a terrible ending, from that perspective: ‘High Tension’ (2003). There are a lot of reasons why the ending is awful. Yes, it makes all of the rest of the movie suddenly meaningless; that's bad. But it's also a bad ending because it's a riddle that's only hard to solve because of how crudely it was told. The audience isn't fooled because it's a clever riddle; they're fooled because the filmmakers manipulate them. It's a riddle with a cheap non sequitur punchline; a game that doesn't play by its own rules. Very unsatisfying (though, in fairness, I guessed the ending early on anyway. Bad writers thingk alike, I guess!)
 
A good example of a twist on that theme is ‘No Country For Old Men,’ where the questions driving the story seem to go unanswered… but that should lead the viewer to wonder whether they were pursuing the right question. Also, given that the story explores themes of nihilism, and seems at times to mock the concept of free will, having no answer actually would be in tune with the language and context of the story. There may be no definitive answer given, but there's enough context for you to know by the end not to expect one.
bravo1102 at 10:00AM, June 29, 2014
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Banes wrote:
Shaun of the Dead
Get the DVD with the extras and you'll see that the original ending was like “Hot Fuzz” it went on and on to explain everything.  Out it came and became a DVD extra where it's told in a comic.  “End of the World” is just as bad it goes on entirely too long and the explanation is just too many words.  When the important speech comes in at the movie climax and I lose track in the middle of it because it rambles on and on like one of my posts… you're in trouble.  Get to the point already!  I know you want to keep every joke and all htose cool lines but sometimes you got to cut, cut, cut.  

Hot Fuzz did what a lot of violent movies do, have to account for everyone so another baddie jumps up and has to be killed.  Sort of like the slasher movies.  Kill him all you wnat he'll be back so it's anti-climax after anti-climax until the “ultimate” weapon is used.  Yeah Jason, Freddie and their kin just keep getting up and walking away.  Doesn't anyone make sure it's dead before they celebrate?  Failed ending trope: you didn't kill it enough.  Just kill it dead and stop trying to shock me with the “Not quite dead schtick” unless you're doing a Monty Python tribute.

My point about losing the last five pages of the script is that a good climax to a story can be destroyed by a horrible denouemont and all everyone will remember was how bad the ending was.  If only you have shaved off those last five pages..

Right now I'm in the midst of writing the ending for the third Belle's Best story and I still don't know which way to go.  
Banes at 5:52PM, June 29, 2014
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An overdose of exposition in the end is bad. I got myself into trouble in my last story by structuring it that way. The story was more a relationship/comedic thing, but there were a LOT of explanations needed in the end. Who is this cranky, pint sized secret agent? Who was he looking for? What was going on behind the curtain? To some degree, it had to be answered. At least, in my opinion it did (and it set up a fairly action packed finale I thought…it just took a couple pages of blabbing to get there).

I cut it back as much as I could and it came out okay I think, but packing up the third act with explanations is risky - if it's DRAMATISED well it can be okay - there could be burning questions that the audience wants answered. But there still has to be conflict (whether dramatic, comedic, thrilling, horrific, or whatever).

I'm glad Shaun of the Dead cut back on their ending…even as it stands, the stuff in the bar goes on a little long for me. Just a little. That might just be me. But the final couple minutes in the altered world pays off really well. It's about as close to perfect as movies get, so I ain't nitpickin'!
ozoneocean at 9:10PM, June 29, 2014
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That's a good pint about too much text at the end of a story- Dramatising it is one way to go but if that takes too long and makes the ending too flabby, consider moving it to an epilogue.
The story is officially ended, those are seen as an extra, but still part of the story, so it's a good convention to use.
 
- I didn't like Hot Fuz or Shaun of the Dead, Saun was over tho top violence, too close to the thing it was making funn off as well as having too many recylced elements from Spaced. Hot Fuz was a parody of ‘70s and ’80s Britsh weird drama series, but it wasn't as them… more like something that just stole their plots to stich together to make a film around the hard-arse supercop character.
But I agree about the ends. Hot Fuz went on too long, while Shaun had a good little end to it.
 
usedbooks at 9:57AM, June 30, 2014
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I really hate when someone swoops in to save the day. :P It's such cheap/lazy writing.
 
 
I just recalled another great ending/climax. Romancing the Stone. I love how it breaks the expected cliche for the romantic adventure with the climactic showdown. Joan gets cornered by the big bad guy and is trapped in the seemingly hopeless struggle, so, like a good heroine, she calls out for help. Jack starts a heroic climb up the tower to come to her aid. But by the time he arrives, Joan has BEATEN the bad guy and collapses into Jack's arms. Yeah, maybe still a little corny, but I much prefer to see characters (especially the less strong ones) win their own battles. Sadly, the “guy you weren't counting on reappears just in time to rescue everyone” has become overdone, so it's not only cheap but completely predictable.
 
 
Actually, having recently watched it with the sequal all in one go, I realized that that's the key difference between the movies that makes Romancing the Stone good and Jewel of the Nile mediocre. In the latter, Jack comes swooping in to her aid to dispatch the bad guy and save the day. Meh.
ozoneocean at 10:15AM, June 30, 2014
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What about War of the Roses? I always considered that the unofficial third film :D
 
usedbooks at 11:15AM, June 30, 2014
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I've never seen that one. I'll have to check it out.
ozoneocean at 11:28AM, June 30, 2014
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Story wise it has no connection to the other films, but the same three stars are in it and their characters have similar dynamics… War of the Roses is like the same characters in an alternate world, or what happened after the events in the other movies: the sad reality of happy ever after.
 It's a great film!
 
KimLuster at 1:05PM, June 30, 2014
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I saw ‘War of the Roses’ on the movie channels not too long ago.  It caught my eye because I was interested in the ‘real’ War of the Roses, a historical English conflict for the Throne between the houses of York: symbol - white rose, and Lancaster: red rose, and…  Oh yeah, the internet exists - google it :)   The movie… it ain't that, but it was pretty darn good, but… Kathleen Turner's character was just a little too mean for me to empathise with her.
bravo1102 at 7:22AM, July 1, 2014
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usedbooks wrote:
I really hate when someone swoops in to save the day. :P It's such cheap/lazy writing.

Yeah lazy history too. Like the First day of Gettysburg (First Corps) July 1 1863) But you're right that's why it was lambasted and lampooned in Greek plays 2000 years ago as Deus ex machina.  It's fun to spoof by making it so obvious and corny.  DW Griffith used it in several of his films and it almost seemed like it was self-parody by how meldramatic and silly it was. 

I like the Thermoplye ending instead,  rescue?  Bah.  Everybody dies.  Arrow in the face Leonidas?  And that spare fleet wasn't riding to the rescue led by the Queen of Sparta at Salamis it was hidden around the corner as an ambush.  Yeah that was lazy in 300 Rise of Empire.
ozoneocean at 8:09AM, July 1, 2014
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“They all die in the end” is usally just as lazy and unimaginitive as Deus Ex Machina though. It's the way most kids end stories after they grow out of “happily ever after”.
In Thermopyle it's history yes, but history from a certain perspective, things don't end at any point in reality, but they do from the perspective of the teller.
- (I know you know all that Bravo, I'm just framing my point here.)
So the point of the style of ending with the Thermopyle is to express the brave, heroic, doomed tragedy and sacrifice of the Spartans… in a really trite jingositic way. The Greeks were great at that sort of thing :D
- (That's not a critisim of your taste Bravo, just another way of looking at that story)
 
Admitedly I haven't read much Shakespere, but he uses the same trick in Romeo and Juliet AND Hamlet: In Romeo and Juliet the two lovers die in the end in what's supposed to be a touchingly tragic misunderstanding, but it's actually pretty farcical. Accidently killing yourself when you were pretending to kill yourself is funny, not sad… but that's beside the point; the death of the two main characters was a cheap shot to go for a “BIG” drama finish, it wasn't clever.
Hamlet is a far worse offender, the entire last act is pure farce with added Deus Ex Machina! People have all these clever plans to kill each other and in the end they ALL fuck it up and kill every single person in the secne mostly by accident (i.e. Deus Ex Machina). It's a very funny read, reminded me of Benny Hill.
The purpose of that ending was to show the utter futility of all the court scheming, of Hamlet's delayling and prevarication, acting too late and having all his plans and aspirations turn to shit because of it with the larger theme that death is inevitable no matter what we do or think… etc.
The only trouble was that the message was so cruedly delivered by the Michael Bay style finalle.
 
The Greeks and Shakespere weren't alone in the crude and unsubtle endings. That was very comon all over the world and especially in myths and legends. Going for the BIG tragic ending was very comon in old folk tales too (probably the origin of the “Oh Henry” style?), and it can make those sorts of tales very boring reading too actually if you read a whole lot in one go because you always know how they'll end up.
 
I have rambled, but I think the comon thread is that the art of storytelling has grown and improved as time has progressed. It's sometimes said that humanity has been telling the same few stories over and over for thousands of years, that might be true but we DO NOT tell them the same way. I'd argue that we're better now at the art -Not everyone obviously, but more of us than in the past and our best storytellers can easily match or exeede the best from history.
 
bravo1102 at 9:27AM, July 1, 2014
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One big problem with the Tragedy style was the five act structure.  The climax is often in act 3! Many like Hamlet could do with losing the last act. Exceptions are King Lear and Macbeth, those hold on till the last minute.  Hamlet is a terrible contrived story but told so well you don't mind.  The play's the thing.  See it in a great performance and who cares about the silly story.
Go on youtube and find the 15 minute and 5 minute Hamlet. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP33oxsyDKY

As for modern story tellers being so much better?  Certainly they see farther and clearer but they are but midgets standing on the shoulders of giants.  

With all the variations of mythical story telling for every everybody dies ending there is another happy one.  The Helen of Troy tale is one example.  There are as many variations as there are authors and she was often the empty vessel a writer would pour his opinions about women into.  Even Shakespeare got a spate of happy ending rewrites in the 18th century.  And several make more sense and are work better plotwise than the tragic endings.  Dickens spoofed one in Nicholas Nickelby.
last edited on July 1, 2014 11:16AM

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