Endings are hard. We all know that. We have to tie up all the loose ends, answer all the questions, and pay off all the characters. We have to give a resolution that hopefully leaves our readers satisfied.
I know of a couple ways to deconstruct a story, and to look at endings. There are surely many more ways to do it, but these are the ones I've learned.
ANSWERING the QUESTION
Some say any story needs a ‘plot question’ that keeps the reader/viewer on board for the answer. So the ending, in its most basic form, answers that question. Will those scarred, singing knuckleheads kill that big shark? Will the estranged couple work out their differences and get together? Will the detective solve the thingy? Will Xanadu finally…uh…do the…thing…that Xanadu wants to…okay, I haven't seen Xanadu.
Connected to that idea will be the Character Arcs. The ending will complete all the characters' arcs, in particular the Main Characters'. So the ending brings the character and plot to resolution.
PLOT and THEME
Another approach is that a character has a WANT (or outer goal) and a NEED (an inner goal). I like this take on things, because it creates a little system for constructing different types of endings.
The WANT is the surface plot: He wants to lose his 40 year old virginity. She wants to evade/learn the identity of the serial killer.
The NEED is the emotional subtext, or the theme: He needs to grow up. She needs to get over the death of her mother.
A Happy ending will have the protagonist achieve both want and need.
A Downer ending will see both desires fail.
A Bittersweet ending will see the want NOT achieved, but the need ACHIEVED.
A Hollow Victory ending sees the outer need achieved and the need not achieved.
So the ending resolves the outer and inner needs in one of those four ways.
How do you approach ending your stories? What do you look for in an ending?
I just found a thread from over a year ago where we discussed this topic (it was also a 3-part Quackcast, apparently!
Banes at 12:00AM, Jan. 14, 2016
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