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Awright, last things first...(writer responses needed!)
usedbooks at 11:19AM, July 1, 2014
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Good point about the “ending” being a matter of the narrator's framing (especially for stories based on factual events).  I'm sure I've seen a number of movies that would have been much better if they had ended two scenes earlier.
 
 
What gets on my nerve are the cliffhanger endings that specifically set up a sequel. It's all well and good unless they don't actually make the sequel. At that point, you just look like an asshole.
 
 
 
Btw, most things I complain about are the endings that I myself use and someone bitched at me about them (usually my sister). The “coming to the rescue” bit I apparently did too often. So now I kill people off and let the bad guys win – and she's mad about THAT too. Sheesh. I'm just going to start Wayne's Worlding all my stories and let people pick an ending.
irrevenant at 10:30PM, July 4, 2014
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This is probably too late for the Quackcast, but:

I'm an iterator.  I throw things down onto the page as they come to me, then go over them and figure out how they go together to make the greater story.  This in turn, sparks new ideas for new bits - and often requiring me to go back and tweak what I wrote before.   I won't necessarily vouch for this approach - it's part of the reason my comic is still stuck on it's title page despite having a rough outline of 8+ issues. -_-  But it does make the story more holistic.

Starting with the ending is definitely a valid approach.  I suspect it works best for plot-driven genres like thrillers and mysteries though.  Anything more character-driven is, well, driven by your characters - and they quite often turn out to want to head in a different direction.  My current comic is in the superhero genre which is somewhere in-between and I expect some tension between the two as I flesh out the characters more.

I would say the importance of the ending also depends a lot on the genre (as does what makes for a good ending).  For an enjoyable character-driven drama, people are perfectly happy going “that was an awesome story, just ignore the last 5 minutes of it” but if a mystery has a nonsensical ending then the whole thing is ruined.  Similarly if a plot is building up to a big ending then that ending needs to live up to it.

I'm going to perhaps be contentious and suggest that an ending can be completely unsurprising and still be good.  IMO, it comes down to emotional investment - if you're invested in the characters then you want to take the journey with them, even if you can see where it's going to end.  Sometimes seeing the end coming is even the reason you can't look away. O_O  Like everything else, this depends a lot on genre - a thriller or a mystery needs to keep you guessing.  A romance or coming-of-age drama doesn't if the characters are enthralling.

re: having someone “come to the rescue”.  That's one of the issues I'm working through in my comic script at the moment.  My plot calls for it in a couple of places and I'm hoping I can do it justice.  My suspicion is that it's probably fine if it's balanced and/or tied to some sort of escalation.  For example: “The hero spends the story hunting down the villain, only to be captured by the villain.  Then the cavalry ride in, capture the villain and rescue him” is bad, especially if there was zero foreshadowing that there was a cavalry.

“The hero spends the story hunting down the villain across wartorn lands, only to be captured by him.  Then the cavalry ride in… engaged in a firefight with an Apache war party. The hero escapes in the chaos, the villain flees, and now the hero has to pursue him through the middle of a massive firefight.”  A lot better, IMO.  The hero still hasn't been saved through his own actions, but the “saving” was of the “out of the frying pan, into the fire” variety so it works.

Alternately there's the “the cavalry ride in and free the hero, then get blown away by the villain with his gattling gun” approach.  Again, the hero's out of the trap, but the stakes have just been raised - no more help is forthcoming and the villain's just revealed himself to be a lot more dangerous than we knew…
Banes wrote:
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?
What are some examples of great endings? What are some not-so-great examples? What made them good? What made them suck? 
last edited on July 4, 2014 10:34PM
Banes at 11:08AM, July 5, 2014
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Irrevenant, you made it! We just recorded parts 2 and 3 of this one.

Thanks to everybody for your thoughts and making this an epic Quackcast trilogy! We're gonna talk beginnings and middles at some point soon…I'll get to work on those posts straight away.

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