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ENDINGS part two

Banes at 12:00AM, Jan. 21, 2016

I read that a great ending should be “surprising but inevitable”. That's a tall order! To have the whole story leading to that inevitable conclusion, but not be predictable. Wow!

However, I've seen (and read…ah, let's be honest; mostly it's “seen”) several great endings that were just that. The ones where you slap yourself in the forehead and say “Of course! It HAD to happen this way!”

My favorites are the ones where I NOTICED the hints earlier, and then dismissed them. As a pretty devoted movie guy, I will sometimes notice and then dismiss something early on, something that doesn't quite fit. Recently that happened, and I dismissed something as just “bad acting” or “a flaw in the script” and it turned out to be the key to the whole ending. How great that is!

An actual example escapes me at the moment, sorry. It's late.

Anywho, you can try to achieve “surprising but inevitable” by approaching the Plot/Theme or Want/Need pieces I talked about last week. In the ending, the Plot and Theme meet for the last time and the character uses what they've learned in the Theme part of the story to win the day. It's something they could never have done at the beginning of the story, without the character growth they experienced throughout the tale.

Anyway, here are some more thoughts on endings:

The “Catch Up” ending
This is what we talked about on a recent Quackcast. The story starts with a piece from later in the adventure, then goes back to show us how things got to that point. The book Ghost Story starts with a strange series of scenes with a man traveling around with a little girl, and tying her to her hotel bed before they go to sleep. It's very creepy, and we don't learn what it all means until the end of the book…and revisiting the same situation at the end gives a VERY different spin on things.

The Twist
More than the usual “surprising but inevitable” turn, the Twist is an ending that completely changes everything the entire story seemed to be.

The twist became overused and eye-rolling a while back. Or a certain kind of twist, anyway: Where the whole story was revealed to be a lie, or a delusion, or some kind of impossibly convoluted scheme within a scheme. Some stories do it really well (though it's gotten harder, with how often it's been done), while some…don't.

Reindeer Games, I'm lookin' at you!

Deux Ex Machina
This is considered bad writing! If the protagonists solve their problems with some kind of outside help, one that was not hinted at beforehand, you have a Deux Ex ending. This also applies when the ending is not particularly challenging and we are left asking, “Why didn't you just do that two hours ago and save us all some time?”

The Long Trip Forward
Here's a nice ending trick to a series or novel that takes us way into the future to show us how things turned out WAY past the end. Like anything, it could be done in a hacky, dumb way, or in a great way. Star Trek the Next Generation played with this, sort of, in its final episode and it was fantastic.

One thing I like to see is a little “bookend” during the ending. A little echo of the beginning. It can help tie the whole thing together and it…I don't know, it just feels right. Next Generation did this as well, with its final episode echoing many elements of the first episode. Seinfeld ended with some identical dialogue from the pilot episode. Breaking Bad brought back come characters from very early in the series and it was very effective.

Are there any specific types of endings…or specific stories with endings you hated? How about endings you loved?

Happy Thursday, y'all!

yours 'til the end,



Banes at 1:05PM, March 17, 2016

Thanks KL! In case anyone reads this, the house on the cliff is from the Pixar movie "UP".

KimLuster at 7:59PM, Jan. 24, 2016

and I recognize all these endings in your collage except for that house on the cliff...!

KimLuster at 7:57PM, Jan. 24, 2016

I never got the time to chime in here, but I agree with Stellar! Endings that make ya go hrmmmmmm!!!

Banes at 4:51PM, Jan. 21, 2016

@Stellar - wow! That's selling me on watching Aria! I like the way you put that, the sneaky character development that quietly sets up a great emotional payoff. Very cool!

Stellar at 10:01AM, Jan. 21, 2016

My favorite endings are cerebral ones, where you still have a LOT to think about.. Donnie Darko is such an example, I'll never forget showing that to some friends for the first time and to the last moment they were on the edge of their seats, then when the credits started rolling both stood up walked in a circle then turned and started asking what was going on. Right behind cerebral are bittersweet endings, the crazy thing is, the masterpiece that most recently did this impossibly well was a slice of life anime called Aria. Through the first two seasons, it was pleasant, a little adventurous, but like all slice of life shows it took the road of least resistance and had its recurring fillers. I didn't quite realize the character depth it was adding, so when the third season or Aria chugged along and then ended blindsiding me with an /actual/ ending befitting everything that was laid out (something pretty rare for slice of life), I cried the biggest tears of joy I think I've ever cried.

Banes at 7:16AM, Jan. 21, 2016

I love almost all the Pixar endings I've seen. Man, those cats work hard on their stories. The endings always seem to deliver in spades!

Banes at 7:15AM, Jan. 21, 2016

Hi, Abt, nice to see you! It's been awhile! About the 'fight' ending, that was one thing I wasn't crazy about in the Daredevil show. I was really liking it, but then the ending just boiled down to two characters hitting each other. Granted, that show was sort of about physical violence; I'm not sure how else it should have ended.

Abt_Nihil at 3:12AM, Jan. 21, 2016

I meant to have the point about climactic fights and 2001 be separate paragraphs to make clear they're NOT CONNECTED at all, but formatting messed with me.

Abt_Nihil at 3:11AM, Jan. 21, 2016

I think most movies which are more about a kind of antagonism than a journey just tend to tease fights, then climax with a fight, and end with the victory. One of the most memorable endings I saw, and which impressed me a lot, was 2001: A Space Odyssey. While it doesn't have a clear-cut structure, and *SPOILER for an old movie everyone's seen, and those who haven't seen it yet probably never will* you could argue that either Dave's confrontation with HAL or his weird space-journey that follows constitute the climax, the ending scene where Dave is this aging man in the alien "cage" and is then reborn as the star child, is mind-blowingly perfect. (Of course, the movie never really "determines" its ending, in that it isn't in any conventional way predictable on the basis of the previous narrative, it's just that the ending perfectly completes the movie on several levels).

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