1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I can never come up with an ending that works, am I doing something wrong?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 9, 2016.

    For my story basically it's about a cop who is victimized, and wants revenge on a gang that gets away with it. It's a pretty standard structure of story that's been done before.

    Usually in these types of stories the main character forms a revenge plan, but then things go wrong and he/she has to redeem himself. In some stories, he fails twice, each time with the failure having bigger repercussions.

    I was reading John Truby's The Anatomy of Story and he talks about it as well, about how the hero makes things worse and worse for himself in these types of stories, till they learn from it and improve their methods.

    However, I can not write an ending that I am satisfied with to my story, and have been trying for over a year now literally. The problem is, is that every scenario I come up with for the MC to do wrong and then have to get out of it, I keep painting him into a corner.

    Every scenario, he does things that go so very wrong, that he cannot get out of it and it it's a permanent repercussion for the rest of the plot.

    I was thinking of just writing it so that the MC's revenge plan goes right from the start, and even though the revenge plan would take long enough to last the last half of the story likely, nothing will go wrong. Maybe I could write it so that something comes close to going wrong but not have anything go wrong.

    That way I can actually bring the story to an end, without him being painted into corner. It's just usually in these types of thriller stories, where the MC has a personal vendetta against the villains, the MC's plan screws up the first time, which can lead to even more tragic consequences, and he then has to redeem himself or think up a new plan, which ends up working. Some stories, the MC has even more than one fail, before succeeding.

    But what if I wrote it so the MC only executed one plan, and succeeded without any tragic repercussion failures before hand?

    I asked a more experienced writer who looked over a lot of what I wrote and he said that I have a solid first half, with some good ideas in it. Before the third act, I keep wanting the MC to fail in his first plan resulting in a character getting killed, or something tragic of that sort, which repercussions can come out of, to build into a new plan.

    I suggested to him, that maybe there should be no tragic failed plan for a second act climax, and perhaps I should just have one successful plan only, since everything I come up with, paints the MC into a corner too much if someone were to die as a result.

    However, he says that the MC getting someone accidentally killed and then having to start over, is a huge descent for the character, and is the icing on the cake for the story. If I take it out, the story will really be brought downhill he thinks.

    But at the same time, I can't keep painting the MC into corners with every plan gone tragically wrong either.

    So what do you think? What's more important, if that is the case likely?
     
  2. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    That whole try/fail plot structure is BS. Rarely does an author use it, and it always come across as forced.

    I can't comment on your story because I haven't read it, but I'll give some general thoughts on how to end a story.

    All good stories consist of two stories, which I suppose I'll label Inner Story (IS) and Outer Story (OS). OS is the plot: guy rescues girl or whatever. IS is the the guy acting on his hamartia, be it a personality flaw, a weakness, or, more commonly, a lie that the guy holds dear, and then being forced to confront said hamartia during the climax.

    The hamartia is the driving force of the character's actions. It informs the character's decisions (which will often make things worse for him), while the plot attacks the pillars upon which the hamartia stands, thus creating a growing internal conflict within the character. Once those pillars are completely smashed--at the story's climax, usually--the character is forced to confront his hamartia head-on and make what I'll call the "climactic decision." Does he continue living according to his hamartia, or does he reject it? Either way, he's a changed man and this is where you end your story.

    So say you have a guy who's trying to rescue some woman. Ok, typical story. What's his hamartia? Well, for the sake of this discussion, let's keep it simple. She's his girlfriend and he (erronously) believes that she loves him as much as he loves her. This lie is his hamartia and it will inform every decision he makes in our story.

    Why does this hamartia exist? In other words, why does he believe she loves him so much? Brainstorm some reason or reasons. This is important, because as your guy struggles to save her, those reasons will be challenged by the plot of the story. And then, during the climax--say, for example, when he reaches her she selfishly pushes him towards danger to save her own ass--any last justification upon which the hamartia stands is blown to smitherenes and the guy is confronted with the lie he's believed about her. Does he save her? Does he continue to love her? Does he tell himself he can still make the relationship work? So on and so on.

    Just think of IS and OS as yin and yang; character drives plot and plot drives character.

    And remember that there are four possible endings for a story.

    1. Both the OS and IS end happily. (Guy rescues girl and girl decides she loves him now.)

    2. Both end on a sour note. (Guy doesn't manage to save girl and he lives with loss on two levels.)

    3. OS is happy and IS is sad. (He saves the girl, but suffers heartbreak and disillusionment. Going a step further, maybe he walks away resenting her.)

    4. OS is sad and IS is happy. (Girl dies, but with her dying breaths she admits that she sees how much he loved her and reciprocates his love. Extremely cheesy, btw.)

    One final thought:

    When you create the plot, it's all about suspense. Conflict is the easiest way to create it, but it's not the only way. (Think of "The Lottery.")

    When you raise one question in the reader's mind, don't answer it until you've first raised one or two more. Everytime something good happens to your character or your character gains what they need or want, have at least one or two bad things happen.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
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  3. KPMay
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    KPMay Member

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    Have you read any other revenge books that could possibly give you some inspiration? The only one I can think of at the moment is the Count of Monte Cristo. He executes his plan for revenge perfectly the first time, but it takes many many years for him to do this, and he doesn't get the girl at the end. <-- very simplified from the book lol, but you get my point :)
     
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  4. Son Gon
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    Son Gon Member

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    an easy solution is to decide the most interesting way for it to end: who dies for what reason, who is saved, who learns a lesson, and what it costs every character. Once you know how it ends, you can figure out which characters, events and conversations are needed to get you there. It's much easier to write it backwards because the beginning of the story doesn't need to tie anything up, just set things up
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I originally wrote it backwards, but then I was told that characters make forced decisions to get to a forced ending, and I was better off writing from the beginning first, and seeing where the characters would take the story and see what ending they would take me to, as I go.

    So if that's the case, then I am not sure which option to take. As for revenge, I am inspired by different sources of other fiction, but not sure which to go with in this particular case.

    There is one character who I cannot decide if he should be a plot driven character or a theme driven character. I feel that killing him off for the climax, would lead to some twists and turns that can make for some strong themes for the reader to think about.

    However, killing him off causes the plot to become complicated and messy, and perhaps, he should remain alive to keep the plot from going off the rails in the process. So in a case such as that, what is more important for a character. To be a plot driven character, or a theme driven character?
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  6. Fable Headed
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    Fable Headed Member

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    Hi Ryan,
    Firstly i would suggest that you write the way it suits you better. There is no set rule for creativity, if starting with a fixed end works for you than go for it, just make sure you connect all the threads and the said end is amazing.

    If Killing that character fits your story and makes it more intriguing while keeping it real to the theme that is going on, then do it ( complex plots are really good if they fits ). I mean if it seems forced then you shouldn't do it.

    And as for the thing that you paint your character in a corner by making him fail then may be its time to give ( or find one of ) your villains some flaws those will provide a new angle for your MC to go to. Just make sure nothing is forced.

    P.S.- I don't have much expertise in writing yet , i myself am an aspiring writer. So, you better wait for other people's feedback too.

    Good luck for your story.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well if I choose to have that character live, then he goes through some more character development and can redeem himself for the ending, which will bring about a plot turn in the story that will rap everything up solidly I think.

    But if he does, then this means that the protagonist, does not have to do as much work himself to get the villains, since this other character lived and came in to save the day successfully. Basically this supporting character is a solution to getting the protagonist out of a jam, and out of the painted corner. Is it worth having an ending that holds together and makes sense, or should the protagonist get himself out of the painted corner for the ending to work regardless?
     
  8. Fable Headed
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    Fable Headed Member

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    Well the whole point is to make an ending that works and make sense. Do what feels more natural. Just don't refrain from killing the guy so that he can bail out your MC.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay then. I think killing the guy would create more drama. But doing so puts the MC in a situation that as far as I can tell is un-bailable, for the MC to do so himself. So in such a case, is it better for someone else to bail the MC out?

    Mainly in my story the MC cannot legally get warrant to obtain certain evidence, he would need to put the villains away. I did research and there is no way a judge would grant such a warrant in these circumstances.

    But if this other supporting character lives and brings in the evidence himself voluntarily, it gets around the lack of warrant technicality.

    But it also means that the MC does not have to do as much himself, since a more minor supporting character saves the day primarily.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  10. Fable Headed
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    Fable Headed Member

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    I don't think bringing in another character to save the day would help, until he/she was previously involved heavily with the process or you have hinted somewhere earlier in your story that this particular character has a big role to play in it.

    Try and find a way with your MC. There must be something, as someone amazing once said that "There's always another secret". Find it. May be teach your MC a skill through the story that will help here or something. It will help in finding the solution to get your MC out of the corner and also help in developing him/her.
     
  11. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Try coming up with about a dozen different endings for the book. This forces you to go through the cliche ones and dig into more original territory. Write the one that feels right.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well perhaps the premise to my story is flawed, and that's why the MC cannot get out of a jam. Basically it's one of those thrillers were a detective is compelled to investigate a series of crimes on his own, cause the department let the villains go. You know that kind of premise...

    But since the detective is acting on his own, without legal authorization, any evidence he comes up with, would be inadmissible in charging the real villains, after he discovers who they are. He cannot search for any evidence from any place without violating fourth amendment laws. And he cannot legally record any conversations that the villains may be having to use as evidence, or to legally use as clues at all. Basically the fourth amendment is the corner he has painted himself into.

    Where as if another character who is not a state agent comes forth with evidence and helps the MC, he would be helping him out of that corner. No matter how great of skill the MC learns there is no beating the fourth amendment it seems in my research.

    So is it okay for another character to come in, even if it means that character will be doing a lot of the work, and the reader might not have that feeling of the lone cop, having to do things on his own, since he is getting help conveniently?
     
  13. Fable Headed
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    Fable Headed Member

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    After reading your last comment all i get is that , you can't make your MC do it by himself.

    But, you can make your MC set up all the things like cogs in machine to eventually let the other character (cop/detective) find the clue and bring it in, Or something like that.

    All i am trying to say is just bringing another character to bail out your MC from a tough situation seems kind of fake and forced to me but you can pull it in such a way that eventually your MC is the mastermind behind the solution. Because its his fight.

    Or else involve the second character from the start. If the ending makes sense to you, then go ahead.
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the advice.

    When it comes to the MC formulating his plan against the villains, to get them arrested with enough evidence to ensure a conviction, every plan I come up with is very fragile. It' s like a building of jenga blocks where if you remove one piece, it all comes tumbling down.

    However, this prevents for having anything go wrong for the MC, even if temporarily. Because if something goes wrong, the whole plan is ruined for the entire rest of the story. Nothing can go temporarily wrong, without being ruined entirely, cause the plans are so fragile, that everything has to go right in order for them to work. Even if I write it so that the plan is ruined entirely, and the MC has to come up with a second plan, the situation is already so damaged from the first plan going wrong, that no second plan ever seems to be possible in my writing.

    This is the problem I am having. How do you write it so that everything goes wrong, yet things are still recoverable and there is still hope. How does a writer formulate a fixable plan for the MC?
     
  15. Fable Headed
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    Fable Headed Member

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    Hi,
    Sorry for the late reply. I hope you have come up with something till now.

    But if you haven't , all i can say is try to explore the ruins of the destroyed plan and try to make your MC pick up some points or clues that will eventually lead to a good plan second time. Or you can go with the first plan itself without making anything to wrong. As i said no one can influence your story and no one should , if a way feels more suitable to you for you story go with that.
     
  16. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it have to end well for the MC? Maybe the story ends with him not getting bailed out of whatever situation he's in from the way that he dealt with the villain, now he has to decide if it was worth it or not?
     
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  17. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    You could make it a philosophical kind of ending that is dark. Your MC is not simply killing the antagonist, but his equal and opposite in the act of revenge. Perhaps even killing the 'bad' version of himself, his physical manifestation of his inner demons. Make it more than simply "badguy hurts goodguy, goodguy now must seek retribution", if you know what I mean.

    In the end the MC could have some altercation with the antagonist, resulting in both getting the shit kicked out of them. And then have the MC simply leave everything behind, changed for the better/worse for what he has done to get to this point. Your MC doesn't have to win or lose, and the antagonist doesn't have to die for the point to be made.

    I like @Simpson17866 said, as it challenges your MC to confront his actions for gaining his retribution. As well as the implications of what he has done leading up to that dark victory.
     
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  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I was planning on the story being open for a sequel, so if the first one finds success, I would make it a series. But the downside to that is, is that the MC has to come out successful, and that is putting limitations on my story I find. Could I possibly have my cake and eat it too, and perhaps have the MC do a lot of wrong and illegal things, but then somehow miraculously escape a long prison sentence because of it?
     
  19. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe the sequel could start with your guy in prison, finding out that he needs to do the thing on the outside that you were originally planning on him doing anyway, then him telling a sympathetic prison guard so they can plan a big escape?
     
  20. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well the character is a police detective, and if he is in prison, he will not be able to work on new cases. Each sequel was suppose to be a new case, and I had other cases in mind already, but he cannot do that if he is a fugitive that has to hide for the rest of his life.
     
  21. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm...

    Maybe the villain's death could be enough to prove that the villain existed, so your MC could pretend that he was at the scene because he was kidnapped and taken to meet the villain for the first time instead of because he was hunting the villain for something that said villain did to him earlier?

    That way, you could have the next books be complicated by the fact that some of the detective he works with don't believe the official story, they suspect the truth and the now MC has to deal with a number of Inspector Javerts in addition to the new villains.
     
  22. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well everyone knows that the villain existed, but I do not think that is the problem. The problem is trying to put the MC in a situation where he is so desperate that he kills the villains and makes it look justifiable, out of revenge, but in a way where he can actually get away with it. But since I was not able to get around the fourth amendment laws for the story, it is very difficult to do that successfully. I am considering maybe the MC should just go to prison for the rest of his life, and forget about a series maybe.
     
  23. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Sorry my post, posted twice.
     
  24. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    And you're sure that him faking a kidnapping to make it look like self-defense instead of premeditated wouldn't work?
     
  25. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    You mean fake his own kidnapping?
     

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