1. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    How to end a short story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by GB reader, Jul 13, 2018.

    I came to WF because I couldn't find any Swedish forums. So for a year I have written small stuff in English. A few weeks ago I translated a few of the stories to Swedish. I left a printout of a short on the table in our coffee room at work.

    Now I have two persons that ask: where is the rest? They read it as the first part of something longer. It’s a simple boy meets girl. They don't end up together but both of them gets a little wiser (he, at least). A slice of life with some conflict that is resolved. No unanswered questions.

    This is the first time any ordinary/real people has read anything i wrote. I didn't see the possibility that someone could see a continuation.

    So, are you to wrap up a short so the reader can see that this is it? Nothing more need to be said in this matter.

    If you leave it open, will readers be disappointed if there is no continuation?

    And a hopelessly difficult question.

    How do you seal a short story? (I write light stuff so just killing people is not a choice)
     
  2. DeeDee

    DeeDee Senior Member

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    One of my favourite short story writers doesn't wrap up their shorts. The stories are more of a vignette, a few scenes and that's it. They sound a bit like if you open a book at a random place and read a few pages. There is no resolution. The author gets lots of reader complaints about this but they also have a very supportive group of fans. So, do some readers hate it? Sure. Does it work for some readers? Sure. There you go. :superidea:
     
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I kind of like it when an ending is implied more than spelled out on the page. Stories that are wrapped up too neatly can lack some sort of authenticity. Our stories in life rarely end with satisfying resolutions. And doesn't art reflect life? That's my take on it. However, I also know you can't please everyone. I had a story published someplace really great and got a similar reaction from a loved one that you got from your coworkers. Still, it was my best sale to date.
     
  4. Ulquiorra9000

    Ulquiorra9000 Member

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    Personally, I just use any manifestation of "solve the problem" that I can think of. As long as the problem or goal in a short story is simple and clear, I'd like to think that any reader will realize that this story is the entire thing. You don't fight an army in a short story; you find the rascal who's been pranking your small business, or rediscover something long-lost from your childhood, or solve a simple mystery. That's what I do, though with my recent short, it's more like a summary of a boy's life into his career, and ends on a positive note when he gets hope back for his career and passion. I've also read short stories that end in disaster or defeat for the protagonist, often sci-fi. I read an old story by Philip K. Dick where a man in future Vietnam discovers that the all-powerful state is really run by a hideous blob creature that knows all, so he can't defeat it the way he intended, so he hooks up with a rebel girl and is satisfied with that.
     
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I would argue that you can do just about anything in a short story. You don't fight an army in a short story? Well, I know of a literary journal dedicated to war and it's effects so, yes, you can fight a army. And there doesn't need to be anything simple about short stories. I'm not sure how summary like short stories usually are, but if it worked for you, great. I do believe that the possibilities are endless when it comes to short stories. I haven't found much I can't do in a 25 pages. I have a novel, but it's a different kind of story. For my novel, I've stolen characters from a short story and put them on a series of adventures. Even though I do think you can even write a mystery short story, I'm having fun with the novel-length story for my mystery.
     
  6. Ulquiorra9000

    Ulquiorra9000 Member

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    That's bigger than the stories I write, and many that I read. Would you say that you lean toward writing novelettes?
     
  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Not at all. Are you saying 25 pages is long for a short story? Of course they can be longer or shorter, but I would say 25 pages or 4k to 5k words is pretty standard for the industry.
     
  8. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Senior Member

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    There should be conflict/tension rising (quickly) and then resolving, usually with very little denouement. The trick is in the resolution. It doesn't have to be spelled out. Sometimes all that is shown is the direction the MC takes. The story is the question and the resolution is the answer. The answer doesn't have to be long-winded or even specific with details, but it must be absolute. Okay, excluding Lady-or-the-Tiger exercises. There's always an exception, but in general, the reader wants to know what's going to happen next even if you don't describe it directly. Now, that doesn't mean that the MC's fate is totally clear, but the direction it takes at the end is an answer to a question the story poses.
     
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  9. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    To end a story is probably the easiest.
    There are many options but the best one is to wrap a story up with a hint there is a follow up. That is to keep readers on their toes.
    In other words what you write is ongoing.
     
  10. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Readers don't need to be on their toes at the end of a story. Sure, it could be argued that all stories could be ongoing, but a true ending should at least be implied in a way that is perfectly clear what most likely if not certainly happens next. Spelled out or not, and ending is a clear ingredient in all short stories. Those key pieces being a beginning, middle and end. I'm not sure it's the easiest, but out of all the components it probably has to make the most sense.
     
  11. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    I disagree.
    Put it this way
    What would you do in you were in the story?
    Would you not want to go on?
    I could not imagine you would not. You have to be true to yourself.
    A book is a book but a story is relatable. Unless you are saying you have enough of life.
    I personally dont believe it.
    Treat a story like you would treat yourself.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  12. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, but I honestly don't know what it is you're trying to say. And I'm not sure what you disagree with. A story can be relatable regardless of the ending. But not all stories are about nice things, probably far from it. But I'm really not sure what you're trying to say here.
     
  13. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    I am trying to say it is better to end a story by saying there is another story to follow.
    I mean you dont go to sleep saying you are not going to be here in the morning? or do you?
    That is what I mean.
     
  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    But when you write short stories you aren't continuing. And short stories have a beginning middle and end all there own. I've never read a short story with a sequel endless it was a linked collection of short stories. Short stories aren't a play-by-play of life. They are just a small story that's a part of it. And I don't think most magazine editors are interested in buying stories that are a continuation of another story. That's not usually how this business works and certainly not my experience at all. Almost all short story has a story occasion. That's the confines of the story. Authors can do a lot with subtext to stretch and imply things outside of that. But I certainly don't think what you're saying is a better way to go.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know what you mean. Can you point to any short story that ends the way that you want short stories to end?
     
  16. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    I don't have one in mind.
    I am only saying that if you wish to carry on writing then it is your duty to indicate to the reader that another story related to the one you
    have finished is about to begin.
    In other words a book does not end just because the story has. The writer has to leave clues to how the next story is about to start.
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    But not all stories are meant to have sequels. In fact I would agree that the opposite is true. Even if books, I don't think that is the case. But in short stories it is definitely even less the case.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But a short story, by definition, usually means that you don't mean to carry on writing. Maybe you have a different definition of short story? We're not talking about a serial, but a brief self-contained piece of fiction that's done when it's done.
     
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  19. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    Hi there deadrats. I completely understand that a story whether be it short or not has got to come to an end.
    My argument is this:
    When you finish a story you are going to be in the process of writing another one? Just because a story has ended does not mean the writer has.
    My idea was perhaps hint in the story there will be another written shortly but I am not sure how one would go about doing that. It is I think one way of doing. There others way of course,
    It is just an idea I am contemplating .
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  20. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    Agreed. However one is never 100% sure one is not going to write another one similar or a catchup on it.
    Certainty is never the case in writing. One may change their mind they liked that short story so much they may wish to give it another twist.
    It is just speculations. :)
     
  21. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    How do you mean by
    a story occasion?
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But the writer is likely to write a totally different story, about totally different characters, published in a different place. So referring to Story Y at the end of Story X is just going to be a distraction. Also, referring to the writer in a story is also going to be a distraction.
     
  23. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    The thing that started this thread was that I felt that I had failed (a little).

    The boy meets girl but not end up together story was meant to give some reflection on the difference between love and care.

    So either I didn't make that reflection clear enough or the other clothes I had to dress up the story with were to interesting.

    Of course the characters went on with their lives but I had nothing more to say about them.

    It may also be the case that those who see a continuation are not used to reading shorts.
     
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  24. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    The story occasion is the event the story takes place around. It could be something like a party or it could be a normal day. But the writer chose to tell this story that happened on a certain day with certain things going on. That is the story occasion. Every short story has a story occasion. I'm pretty sure I can say every short story has one because it is a really important part of writing short stories.
     
  25. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    And believe me, there is nothing that will piss off your readers more than an author hinting that there's more to come at the end of the story, when there's not actually more to come. It's disingenuous to lead readers on to think that the story will get picked up again when the author has no intention of continuing with the storyline set up in the first short (or novella, or novel, or what have you). Get ready for the pitchforks and torches to come out if that winds up happening.

    Honestly it's one of the reasons I exclusively read and write Romance. There's no guessing on anyone's part as to how the story should end, and I find the predictability extremely comforting in both roles.
     

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