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HOW TO END A STORY

April 1, 2021

            Far less common, but not rare is the question, “How do I end my story?”

            Whenever I see this question, I want to go, “Huh?”

            It’s like why in the world would you even start writing when you don’t have a goal?

            Then I think back to my first Star Trek satire and think how I just wanted to write, but thank my lucky stars (there’s an old cliché for you), that I tried it on an old manual Royal typewriter and it was too much effort to get anywhere. Add to that a total lack of skill, and I saved myself a lot of trouble and never got past three quarters of a page.

            Today, one can take a directionless mess several hundred pages with a computer keyboard and end up with no idea how to put it all together in a neat package with a proper ending.

            This is why I consistently emphasize that no matter whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, ALWAYS figure out A and B, and more likely the title, before you ever write a single sentence of the story.

            Without a goal, you’re going to end up with a mess.

            Speaking of goals…

THE GOAL IS THE PLOT

            Someone with a more smartass approach might say, “Uh, duh…”

            However, that’s not the right way to look at it.

            When one wants to write a great story and they have a great idea, execution doesn’t always wash when one doesn’t have the idea fully hashed out.

            The idea that the goal is the plot should be obvious but not always.

            Setting aside any twists and turns, the goal IS in fact the plot, the whole point of the story.

            Back to the butler did it from my last article.

            The butler did it is the plot of your mystery story. It’s a murder mystery. A detective story. The goal is to solve the mystery, therefore that’s the plot. Solve the mystery. What twists and turns you put in it along the way are the plot twists.

            Now, you might think that the ending would write itself. In the end, the butler is caught. That’s the ending. The plot is solved. However, resolving the plot is not the ending in of itself. While you may catch the killer, so to speak, that may not be the actual ending.

            This is where some writers get hung up. While they may have written out their story and have come to the resolution of their plot, they cannot figure out how to end the story.

They’re not the same thing.

HOW TO END A STORY

            I’m once again using the very simplistic example of the butler did it. It’s a murder mystery but it could apply to any story, any genre.

            In the end, the detective or protagonist (doesn’t have to be a detective) discovers the identity of the murderer.

            Now what?

            Murder mystery = discovery of the killer = plot resolved.

            So what?

            How do you end it?

            There are many ways to end this thing depending on what you want to do.

            #1 Abrupt ending.

            The story ends with the protagonist discovering the identity of the killer in a big aha moment.

            The end.

            #2 Elaborate ending.

            The story ends with an elaborate discovery of the killer and the protagonist calls the police who arrest the butler. The hero then gets the girl/or guy (which is a romantic subplot).

            #3 The killer wins.

            The killer is discovered and kills the protagonist. As much as I hate bummer endings, this surprise twist ending has the butler find out he’s been discovered then kills the protagonist before the good guy or girl can inform the authorities. Then the bad guy or girl carries on with a big smile.

            #4 The killer gets away with it.

            The protagonist discovers the butler did it but can’t prove it, and has to let the bad guy get away with it.

            #5 The killer dies doing something redeemable.

            In the process of chasing the butler, he or she saves someone while confessing to the killing. The protagonist decides to keep silent and let the killer keep his or her reputation.

FACING YOUR OWN ENDING

            It’s a huge given that you have a point to your story. In other words, you have a plot after writing thousands of words of a story that meanders toward some sort of conclusion.

            Somehow, you have to end it eventually. All it takes is a bit of imagination and looking at possibilities. You can use any number of twists. Asking a forum to write it for you is not the way to do it because then it’s not your own. However, I can understand letting them throw ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Then twist that around to make something your own. I personally would never do that because I want my stuff to be my own.

            The examples I’ve shown are super generic and meant to apply to anything. They’re meant to spur your imagination in ways I can’t possibly predict, and that’s exactly what I want. I don’t want to write your ending for you. I want you to do that on your own.

SUMMARY

            I cannot emphasize how important it is to at least plan out A and B before you start. For me, that doesn’t mean I write the exact details. Not at all. For instance, the current book four of Meleena’s Adventures is in the works. I have A and B down and the title. I’ve already written A because I’m currently on Chapter 4. However, I have NOT written B yet. I have it in my head, but won’t specifically write it until I get there. I DO know what it’s going to be, or generally so in my head. It may change a bit by the time I get there, but not significantly. I know my goal, my plot and how it’s generally going to end. I don’t have to scramble and freak out when I get to B to figure out what to do. You shouldn’t either!

            Happy writing!

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