Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to Make THE END

Sephiroth by Yubinbasya

"When will you make an end?"
- The Pope on the painting of the Sistine Chapel
"When I'm finished."
- Michelangelo.

Okay, so you got this GREAT Idea for a story!

This Great Idea...that births chapter after chapter...

This Great Idea...that you can't seem to finish. (WTF?)


So what do you do now?

HOW do you make THE END?

Fairytales and Myths were my foundational reading, so they became my base model for how a story should finish. Fairy Tales have Symmetrical Closure, they end where they began, making a nice tidy 'Karmic' loop.
  • The lost find their way.
  • The wicked are punished.
  • The weak become strong.
This doesn't mean ending a story in the location it began, or that full irrevocable transformations don't happen, but that the story ties the knot to the Emotional or Karmic place they began. Monsters are faced, emotional hang-ups are dealt with, and problems are solved. What is begun - finishes.

It sounds perfectly simple, and it can be, however I despise stories I can guess the ending to, so naturally, I refuse to write them that way. (Insert evil snicker.) 
The Wrong direction is the Right direction!

I prefer to write stories that throw the reader completely off the obvious path, straight through the center of the village, and force them into the deep dark woods. I deliberately make every straightforward solution unbelievably problematic!
  • The obvious answer is the wrong answer.
  • The simple solution is impossible to accomplish.
  • What seems to be a easy task has impossible if not fatal complications.
Once the reader has been sent careening off into territory they never expected to go, and gotten utterly wrapped up in a plot they never expected - that's when I start tying up ends by way of pulling rugs out from under the reader's feet.

Characters reveal Motives that change how their base characters are Perceived.
  • The obvious bad-guy isn't the bad guy, he's AFTER the bad-guy. However, he's completely ruthless in his hunt, which is what made him seem like the bad-guy in the first place.
  • The bumbling fool that merely wants to help improve his fellow man, is in fact completely deranged sociopath that likes to do his improvements with a scalpel.
  • The person the main character is trying to rescue, not only doesn't want to be rescued, but in fact resents the intrusion.

Random events and objects are revealed to have Unexpected Connections.
  • The gun on the mantelpiece wasn't merely a decoration.
  • The strange recluse neighbor turns out to be the one person who actually knows what's really going on.

What was accepted as Fact is revealed to be Something Else entirely.
  • "We're all living in a computer generated dream-world."

And in the process of dealing with all that...
  • Monsters are faced.
  • Emotional hang-ups are dealt with.
  • Problems end up solved.
  • What was begun - finishes.

"But the story is already halfway written and I have no idea where to go from there!"

Go back to the beginning and figure out what your MAIN Character's Problem was Internally (emotionally) & Externally (plot/quest). If you haven't solved them yet, then that's all you need to do -- solve the quest & fix their emotional issue. 

Note: Your main character is the Point of View character most of the story is told from. 

"But what do you do if you've come to the end, but you wanna keep going?"

That's what Sequels are all about.

Very simply: Same cast - New Problem -- and new title!

"...too many good books, book series, anime, etc. suffer from
Bad Endings."

Most often, this happens when: 

-- A) The author didn't know how they wanted to end the story before they started writing. They just wrote...until they couldn't write any more.  (AKA: Writing by the seat of their pants.) 

-- B) They planned the end, but painted themselves into a corner by tossing in a major (head/heart/sex) problem they didn't know how to fix before they could get to the end. (AKA: Bit off more than they could swallow.) 

How do you
FIX the Problem?

1) Written by the Seat of your Pants.
-- When you've written something by the seat of your pants, the only way to fix it is by stopping cold and figuring out where you want it to end - then adjusting the whole story to suit your ending. This means extensive rewrites. 

This also means making a decision.

What's more important to you as an author?
A) The hours you spent writing all those words that got you nowhere?
- OR -
B) Making a story your readers will swoon over, and demand all their friends read too?

2) Bit off more than you can Swallow.

-- I've noticed that this shows most frequently when you have an ANGST plot. Oddly, it also shows up when someone wants to write a sex scene, but never had sex before. 

Fixing Sex
- This is actually really easy. READ smut stories. (Watching porn movies gives you what it looks like, but not what it FEELS like.) Make damned sure you read the warnings on each story! Some of this stuff might make you wanna hurl.

  • Hetero smut - I recommend reading books by author Angela Knight for excellent graphic detailing without making you wanna hurl, and a solid romance with her adventures.
  • Yaoi smut - go here: Minotaurs Sex Tips for Slash Writers. Read that.
Just, for God's sake, don't copy someone's smut scenes word for word - that's plagerism. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.

Fixing Angst
- This one's tough. If you're trying to fix a serious problem like Grief over lost loved ones begin by Googling 'stages of grief', so you know what your character is supposed to be going through, and follow the advice given for getting over it. If you're trying to fix a heart-ache like a break-up between lovers, the stages of grief still works. 

If you're trying to get them back together again - then you have a real problem.

Here in the West, getting back together rarely ever happens in real life because it's just easier to end the relationship completely and not deal with it anymore.

In the East, it's another story entirely. People do get back together because they are tought from childhood that Family and personal Honor is far more important than personal feelings.
  • Enemies WILL put their personal vendettas on hold until a common enemy is vanquished.
  • Wives will go back to their husbands for the sake of keeping the rest of the family safe from harm; giving those husbands a chance to make their wives fall in love with them again.
In Conclusion...
-- When you have come up with the most diabolical problem known to man (or beast) the only way to fix it is by finding out how other people did it and applying that to your characters. Ahem, RESEARCH. There are literally thousands of help sites for dealing with relationship problems, and even more on how to deal with grief, loneliness, and other emotionally devistating issues.

Hint: Google is your friend.
Morgan Hawke


  1. Oh yes, there is nothing as satisfying as a twisted ending which also has a sense of emotional closure - that carmic circle you mentioned.

    Although I like an "open ending" from time to time too - say, the hero and the heroine are meant to kill each other, their weapons are poised to shoot, and yet both realize their feelings for each and try to call the killing strike back - and... the end! )))) We'll never know if they managed to stop in time. It's aggravating but in a good way.

    PS Sephiroth is so young & pretty on that picture - softer than he was, but I like it this way :)

  2. Hey Daria!
    - I don't mind open endings myself, as long as all the ISSUES are closed or at least faced.

    I liked this Sephiroth illustration because he seems so full of hope, heroic in fact. And yet we all know how his story ended which makes this very same picture painfully tragic.

  3. yeah, I'm here, though not much online - checking mail regularly though, and reading your blog :)

    yes yes I totally agree about issues - there has to be a sense of a major change, in the characters at least. Their world has been turned upside down, and they must realize it and make their decisions.

    Yes, tragic and yet... poignant? in a way. Like, there still can be hope, even if it shatters and dies at the end.

  4. Nice pages here. Great information. Will visit again and recommend.

  5. You might enjoy the movie "La Image"/"The Image" as well. Great premise, though some harsh (I thought) BDSM. A lot of BDSMers like it though.