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  1. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How do you know your ending!?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mckk, May 29, 2018.

    I have an idea of how it could go, but I'm struggling to figure out what might be best for the story and for reader satisfaction. I guess perhaps even for my own satisfaction.

    So how do you figure it out? Any advice? How do you know if you should go down the tragedy route, or if you should go for the uplifting route? Both would be "right" and I can take events in either direction - but how do you know when it's right for the story?

    Help... :bigfrown::supercry:

    Side note: there's also a chance I'm just frigging terrified of actually finishing this WIP. I've worked on it for over 10 years... Like, what do I do if I actually finish it!? What if it isn't what I wanted it to be? I need to tie everything up in the next 30k words. 30k. I'm 30k from the end. Like, after 10+ years - WTF :bigconfused:
     
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  2. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    For my two novels, I knew the endings before I began writing them. They are the kind of endings that satisfies me as a reader. It can be bittersweet, but it has to be uplifting. It might not satisfy all readers, but nothing will satisfy all readers, so I might as well satisfy myself. The kind of ending you need probably depends on your genre too, though there are no hard and fast rules.

    You finish it, then you rewrite it, then you re-rewrite it as many times as you need to.;)
     
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  3. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    This.

    I almost always know how it ends when I first think up the story. It's filling out the middle that's the real work for me. However, even if I don't know the exact ending scene, I know what feel/general vibe I'm looking for in the ending and can craft it as the story develops. I don't know that I'd be able to start writing a story until I had that at least partially figured out.
     
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  4. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    See which ending makes more sense. I really hate it when a tragic ending didn't have to be that way -- like, the character survives the big showdown, then is randomly shot by a randomer when everything has calmed down. Or when they do something stupid and that gets them killed. Maybe your tragic ending woudn't include death, but the point is, I believe most people want a happy ending, and they get very frustrated when it all turns out sad for reasons that don't make sense, just because the author wanted it to be sad. :)
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2018
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  5. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I know what you're going through. I'm on chapter 62 and counting -- :rolleyes: Part of my inability to wrap up the story is I'm not sure what I finally want to say at the ending of it. What mood do I want to leave the reader in, have I made good on all my promises to the reader, will this resolve all the issues, is it too ambiguous, will they get it. Do I get it? I have the last line in mind and the final scene but getting to that scene is ... work.
    I would only chose tragedy if it leaves the reader with a moral truth --like sacrifice. ( in my robot story Not Pink the robot was supposed to 'die' but after writing his death scene I was like what a downer and kept writing giving him what I thought was a more fitting future for the overall tone of the story which was a kind of dark whimsy) But not everything has to be upbeat or tragic you could straddle between your two options. In my first novel the hero catches the 'villain' and then loses him and his only win is to tell him that his girl has escaped him. Rather than a tragic death or justice or even something upbeat I decided to go with a more dark-humored poetic justice.
    And if all else fails I'm with some of the others -- write out multiple scenarios and chose what best fits. Remember you can always go back and fix it in a rewrite. Sometimes it's been so long in the writing that it's hard to tell what's actually going to work because you're so far removed from the beginning.
     
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  6. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    A lot of the time, the best ending for a story is already set up in the beginning (even if you did it subconsciously and didn't realize at the time). That's obvious in genres like murder mystery, where the story typically starts with someone being killed and ends with the perp being caught. But it's also true in many other books.

    Which is interesting, because I just realized that the novel I'm finishing off starts with the female lead hitching a lift, and ends with her hitching a lift in the same car with a different driver...

    Anyway, you might want to go back and look at how the story starts, and see whether that points you toward an ending. For example, if you start the story with an upbeat opening, you might not want to end it with a tragic ending, or many readers who bought the book for the opening will throw it against the wall at the end.
     
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  7. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Mine's a fantasy novel but it isn't exactly a conventional fantasy novel, I think. Like, in terms of plot elements, it's pretty ordinary - it's got magic and the main plot revolves around a war - but in terms of the way the story is told, it's largely character-based and apparently it's not quite written chronologically (I didn't even realise this... The person who made the comment also said it works well, so all good I guess). I wouldn't say it's dark, but it opens in a pretty grim tone - melancholic, probably.

    I wish I had a general feeling about the story - I've got to the point of having no feelings or sense of direction about it at all. It's more a case of writing whatever's logically next till I get to the end.

    It's been over 10 years. I'm not prepared to rewrite it anymore. I wanna write it, and then of course I'll edit it and do whatever changes necessary to make it a polished book. But I'm simply not prepared to "Write and see what happens, and if needs be, just ditch the whole thing and write it again" anymore.

    I like the point about the ending being at the beginning @Edward M. Grant - it's at least made me think making the decision to have my MC kill my antag probably a good decision (my MC's identity is that of a healer and he starts the story by healing someone - seems apt that he should end up killing someone instead by the end). If I am to think of the beginning as my ending, then I guess I would make everything the opposite of how things were, that everything from the opening should have in some way been changed. This reminds me of a forgotten plot point I actually need to address in the ending lol. You've given me some food for thought - I''ll think more on this. Thank you!
     
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  8. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    Which one of your possible endings would you be most happy with as a reader? I mean, if it was someone else's book you just picked up and read.

    If you don't know, describe the possible endings to a couple of friends and ask which one they like best.
     
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  9. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Senior Member

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    Beginnings and endings are probably the easiest things for me when writing a story. When it comes to endings...it's just what feels "right", as you said. It's really hard to explain! Though I do sympathize with your theory that you just might be afraid to actually finish it! Our stories become our "babies", after all, and it's hard to watch them "grow up" and "move on", so to speak. For me, I tend to have a basic idea of how the story will start, who the main character is, and a very simple plan for what the biggest conflict in the story will be. That conflict then needs a resolution, so I try to think of what that should be. That then makes it at least a little bit easier to come up with scenes that move the story forward, with that resolution in mind. Maybe thinking of your story that way could help give you ideas? And there is nothing wrong with having multiple ideas for an ending. All are probably viable, but as you keep working on your story, I'm certain the "right" ending will be revealed to you through how the story ends up. Even though I know the basic plot of my stories, nothing always works out exactly as I plan, and so big scenes happen that I wasn't expecting, and that can turn it in a whole new direction.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  11. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    May I present, a personal friend of mine.

    http://a.co/hSvOBGG

    This book took him over 30 years to finish, because he wanted it to be right.
    I'm, uh, gonna be honest, I haven't read it. [adjusts collar nervously] But the point is, just because you haven't finished yet, doesn't mean you won't. And honestly, being in the top 10k of any genre is (as far as I'm concerned) impressive enough for a guy whose main income is running a Dr. Who merchandise company. His goal wasn't to be 'the best'; he just wanted his book to be right--and after 30 years, it was, and he published.
    He's happy with what he's done--and someday, you will be.

    E: Editing because I figured I might as well add my own thoughts.

    So when I sat down to write the story, some part of me knew that my MC had to die, just as the government he fights for had to lose. If he lives, if everything he believes in crumbles around his ears and he continues to survive, it speaks to a hardiness that the character does not have. He's a step-upper; when push comes to shove, he shoves back. But remove the pressure from him, and he deflates like a bad tire. That sort of person wouldn't be able to handle losing a war the way the MC does.

    So the MC has to die. He can't have a happy ending; his family is gone, the galaxy has changed (who knows if it's for the better), and everything he thinks is important is rendered useless. A man he can't stand keeps him like a pet prisoner, but his heart is broken. His will is broken. If he lives through it, it entirely defeats the purpose of him losing the war in the first place, and thus the entire story itself.

    The point of the novel, the tale it's telling, is that good men are sometimes very, very wrong. Think Tony Stark in Age of Ultron. My MC is so convinced that he's right, he doesn't realize exactly what he's doing until it's too late, and the war is lost. Without the knowledge that the war is lost, that the rebellion the MC fights against wins, there may as well not be a book.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
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  12. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    I understand your question. I was sure of my ending before I wrote it, but I recognize an alternate ending exists that may be a little more "uplifting." I'd write the ending you think is the best, the one you like the best, but keep any other alternative endings in mind. If betas or whatever think you need another ending, you have one, you'll just have to write it.
     
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    I won't know till I get there. :p
     
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  14. Sieglinde

    Sieglinde Member

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    I always know my ending first - a few main characters, and how it ends. The rest I have to figure out.
     
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  15. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Pick the ending that rings of poetic justice!!

    Your protagonist showed in the climax of the story whether or not she deserved to achieve her goals; she demonstrated, for your reader to see, exactly what she was made of (at least I hope she did!). Whatever decision she made, whatever path she chose, it was the path to the ending right now. Your ending, to be satisfying, must be a consequence of your main character's choices that she made in the heat of the story's climax. If she chose the path of the hero, give her a fitting ending. If she chose to be a coward, repay her in kind. You get to choose what justice is, but your character has already chosen how to be judged.
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes strength of character emerges when a person is confronted with something they assumed they would never do—and they do it anyway, because it is necessary. How that situation works into the plot of a story (tragedy, a catharsis, a change of perspective) is up to the author.

    The opportunity might also arise for a character to do what he's always wanted—or expected—to do, and he decides not to do it after all. Or maybe he finds he can't actually do it. Somebody else has to do it for him.

    Take a long look at what you've been building in your story, and then maybe twist it a little, along these lines. I faced a similar dilemma in my story, and my solution did surprise me. I think it worked, but it didn't quite turn out the way I think my readers expected it to.

    I think we all learn from confronting our decisions. We compare them to what we thought we wanted, or what we had assumed we would do if that occasion ever arose. And of course, we need to accept the consequences of our decisions, whatever they may be.

    A moral decision is often made subliminally. While it might seem to be made suddenly and under pressure, that decision has been building for a long time. I think when you choose that path for your character, the ending is always satisfying ...whether it's a 'happy' ending or not. That's when the decision might be surprising, but it feels 'right.'

    When a character makes a decision that might be good for the 'plot' but does not arise from the personality you've been building for that character, then your readers can end up thinking: What? No, that's totally NOT what he would ever do. I'm so disappointed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  17. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke

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    Before I ever write anything, I usually map out ideas for a beginning, some of the events within the story, and the ending. I always know how I want the story to end. If I didn't, my ADHD brain would take every story in 10,000 different directions.

    Strangely enough, I actually tend to struggle more with beginnings than with endings.
     
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  18. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Honestly, I didn't have an idea of the ending before a song smacked me on the back of my head. I know what readers look for and it'd be very easy to give it to them: but my story didn't feel right with that kind of ending. So I held off decision making (it's easy for me, I'm still writing at the first 35k) until I found inspiration.

    What helped me is the same advice that's been all over the forum: Read, read read. Doesn't matter if newspapers or fiction stories. Let your backbrain engage and it'll churn out answers. Keep the feel of your story in mind, and what you can realistically expect from your beginning. Is it right for your characters, keeping in mind everything they've experienced? Is it right for the secondary characters, hoping for some other ending? Your ending has to satisfy both. I think @jannert has said it best.
     
  19. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I thought I knew the ending but when I got there it had changed into something else.

    It's great to have an idea of where you're going and the message you want to convey, but make allowances for changes on the way, because sometimes they'll show up and they'll feel right. As your characters become more fleshed out you'll find they sometimes take over and start being demanding and writing the book for you! (Not literally of course, but sometimes if they grow a certain way you might find that some events you had planned out have to work out differently because of the way they would behave in that situation)
     
  20. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Active Member

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    For me endings are the hardest thing.
    I have two WsIP; one is part one of a trilogy, I have devised three outline endings and will choose the most appropriate one and flesh it out when the time comes.(very soon now I fear)
    My second WIP is very bleak and the ending is pretty inevitable, I still have a couple of options sketched out though and again will decide when the time comes.
    Whenever I come up against a 'difficult bit' I tend to write arbitrary idea outlines and keep them to the side and fiddle with them until one grabs me decisively.
    Sometimes they grow into independent plot ideas which can turn something of a drudge into a bit of fun.
    It's interesting to see how different people approach the same problem.
     
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  21. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I have a rough idea of how Evergreen will end, but it could be totally different when I get there. I did write part of the epilogue that features Rose and Lyla after the end of the conflict.
     
  22. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    I've got a loose idea about the ending but the ending isn't the problem. Is getting there in a coherent manner when my characters want to run off down alleys and up trees that's the difficult part.
     
  23. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I typically know where I want the story to end before anything else. It's getting the story to arrive at that goal that gives me a job more often than not.
     
  24. Ellara Zemar

    Ellara Zemar Member

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    IMO, it's good to line up the 'loose ens' that needs to be resolved. After you know that it's just to use your imagination and inspiration and get creative until you find the right ending.
    I wrote the ending before getting into the details in the middle in my WIP. It's quite sad (someone very dear to me dies) so I immediatly wrote another ending where he lives but it was quickly obvious that it didn't made sense.

    Good luck!
     
  25. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    I do. The problem is that it seems to lead straight in to another story.
     

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