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Issues Settling on an Ending (1 Viewer)

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I am running into a problem with my current book. It will be an adventure mystery. I'm putting together a summary of the book so I can have the storyline worked out as well as line up the little details of the mystery that will work out throughout the story.

My problem is I can't settle on an ending to the story. I keep having different ideas and I don't know what will work out best. It's one of my biggest weaknesses. I get an idea and then think of a million different ones that could be better.

How do you decide on an ending for your story?
 

Foxee

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How do you decide on an ending for your story?
Painfully.

One tool I've found on my way to figure out how to end things is The M.I.C.E. Quotient which you can read more about here.

In short the thought process is that there are four broad categories of plot types: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event

Whichever MICE element you're currently working with (for a whole book or for a scene, etc.) will demand an ending that fits its beginning.

Example: Milieu stories are about starting out from a place or type of society (London, the Army, Mars) and either returning to the starting place by the end of the story or the character deciding that the milieu that they've moved on to is preferable or maybe they'll never be able to go back. The Hobbit is a good example. Bilbo has no thoughts of leaving the Shire, he leaves on a grand adventure anyway, at the end he returns to the Shire.

If you're interested in this, I suggest listening to the podcast about it. It's about 15 minutes long.
 

indianroads

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Foxee's post is excellent, but I'll add my opinion.

There's character growth to consider - Bilbo returns to the shire, but the interesting thing is that he's changed. Classic hero's journey, the MC returns home and their adventure has changed their perspective on life.

So - we usually start out in chapter one with something knocking a contented character off balance. At the end, we allow them to regain their footing - perhaps not in the same physical location - and they recognize that they have grown and return to stasis.

In romance they have standard endings: HEA = Happy Ever After, or HFN = Happy For Now. I think that works for all genres. Ideally, I want my readers to be satisfied with the ending, but also to be attached to the characters such that they wonder what they were going to do the next day. I'm not talking cliffhanger here (I hate those) but a sort of friendly attachment... for me, an example of this is when I think of old girlfriends. I have NO romantic interest in them, but hope they are happy and enjoying life.
 

Foxee

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Ideally, I want my readers to be satisfied with the ending, but also to be attached to the characters such that they wonder what they were going to do the next day.
If I kind of miss the characters when I've finished reading a book, that is an indication that it was a good one!

Another thought:

There are:
"Up" endings (ending on a high note for the characters) including optimistic controlling ideas
"Down" endings (the ending satisfies all the questions of the story but the character doesn't get what they want) including pessimistic controlling ideas
"Ironic" endings (both at once).

There are "closed" endings that answer all questions raised by the story and satisfy all the emotions evoked.
There are "open" endings that leave a question or two unanswered, and some emotions unfulfilled.

If you want to read more like this on the subject, try Robert McKee's book Story ​in the chapter on "Structure and Meaning".
 

Taylor

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I'll chime in, although I have not written as many endings as Foxee and indianroads. But I know a good ending when I read it.

For me, a good ending is one that completed the theme, but is not too obvious. It has to make the reader ponder, but still feel satisfied. And like indianroads says it has to change perspective and show their has been growth of some kind. So to take a typical theme, "the good will prevail", the MC shouldn't win at everything in the end. Something should still be unexpected or uneasy for them. Crime stories will typically end up with the hero wounded.

But maybe that's not answering your question...how do you choose? If you have a lot of good ideas, maybe earmark them, and then just write and see where it goes. You may end up with something completely different.

A funny anecdot on choosing the right ending, is about the movie Pretty Woman. The original script had them not ending up together. The beautiful prostitute turns down the handsome tycoon's offer to put her up in a condo. The end.

In walks Disney and buys the production. They complete production and run it for a test audience. (Think Disney test audience.) And they booed the ending so bad that they re-hired the actors and re-shot the ending, which IMO comes off a bit campy.

But, it is still the highest grossing Rom-Com ever. So I guess Disney knows a thing or two about writing endings.

 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
How do you decide on an ending for your story?

Honestly, I don't. I have never struggled with an ending for a story because my view on endings is 'that which makes sense given everything that has happened up until now'.

In other words, I don't believe endings for properly written stories are open to much change. If you consider some of the best stories, could they have ended any differently? I think the answer is no. Not without changing the fundamentals, anyway.

For example, the end of the movie Star Wars cannot end any differently to how it ends. Not without fundamentally changing the story, because every part of the story beforehand leads up to the ending: The Death Star must be destroyed; Luke must learn to use The Force; good must prevail. How could the ending be different?

I suppose you could make some cosmetic changes but, it couldn't really be that different right? Luke cannot die at the end of that story without the entire development of the character making no sense. You could potentially have a secondary character die -- Han Solo or whatever -- but this is not really a seismic change, because the story is About Luke. It's ultimately a Coming Of Age story. The ending must be in keeping with the story or else the story is a waste of time. The ending must be the logical conclusion, nothing more.

So, when people say 'I don't know how to end my story' I always think that indicates a deeper issue. It may be that the writer hasn't quite figured out what their story is essentially about. It may be that they are having problems with vision. It may be that the plot is simply flawed. More likely, it is simple overthink.

I suggest you re-read your work up until now. Do it as objectively as you can, dispassionately, and really try to put yourself in the seat of the reader. Then ask yourself: What would they expect from an ending?

I've written on here before about the idea of 'prestige'. I'm not sure if you've seen the movie The Prestige or read the book (it's a great book) but the idea is that a magic trick has three parts. To quote:

An illusion has three stages.

"First there is the setup, in which the nature of what might be attempted at is hinted at, or suggested, or explained. The apparatus is seen. volunteers from the audience sometimes participate in preparation. As the trick is being setup, the magician will make use of every possible use of misdirection.

"The performance is where the magician's lifetime of practice, and his innate skill as a performer, cojoin to produce the magical display.

"The third stage is sometimes called the effect, or the prestige, and this is the product of magic. If a rabbit is pulled from a hat, the rabbit, which apparently did not exist before the trick was performed, can be said to be the prestige of that trick.

If you regard your ending as the 'Prestige' of the magic trick, which it is, then it's fairly obvious it has to be formed of the parts that have come thus far.

You cannot have a display of a hat without the rabbit, but the rabbit comes from the hat and the hat must be there to create the rabbit. It's no good having a magician's hat only for an alligator to march in from the stage -- it contradicts the set up of the hat. The hat and the rabbit are therefore crucially linked to one another. If you have a hat, you must have a rabbit, you cannot have an alligator.
 

Foxee

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I'll chime in, although I have not written as many endings as Foxee and indianroads.
Have to stop you there and confess that my advice is coming from what I'm pursuing to help me think about endings because I've finished so few that are satisfactory. I read what LuckyScars wrote above for the same reason.

Also "The Prestige" (only saw the movie) was a really really good ending. Great example.
 

Taylor

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Have to stop you there and confess that my advice is coming from what I'm pursuing to help me think about endings because I've finished so few that are satisfactory.

OK...but I have to confess that I haven't even written one yet...lol! Well maybe one for the flash fiction challenge...but I left it pretty much hanging.

But, I already know my ending for my WIP. So this might be helpful to the OP, the ending was the first thing I knew when I decided to write the novel. I had been thinking about that ending for years, and in some ways that was what drove me to write it. It was something that I just wanted to share with others. And the ending drove the character development and plot. Because in order to get there, a lot of things needed to happen. I guess that is sort of in-line with Luckyscars' post...perhaps there IS only one suitable ending. But in my case I'm working it backwards.

So, just a thought, perhaps you can go back in time and remember what you had originally pictured for an ending...if you did.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
Hopefully your character's journey will provide some clues as to how to end their story. You've established what the character truly needs, so give it to them. This will usually be different from what they want or what they thought they needed. The thing they need and how they get it is also a major theme, so think about what you're trying to say about that Big Idea.
 

Sir-KP

Senior Member
My problem is I can't settle on an ending to the story. I keep having different ideas and I don't know what will work out best. It's one of my biggest weaknesses. I get an idea and then think of a million different ones that could be better.

How do you decide on an ending for your story?

Though I have a slight difficulty to decide which ending, I can't really relate to your situation.

For your case, if it's truly the matter of improvisation, I guess all you need to do is to set a mini deadline for your decision.


For my case, I'm a heavy what-if person and I really like the idea of multiple or alternative endings based on important character's decision(s), which I used to create a topic about it here, but apparently it's not everyone (reader)'s cup of tea to encounter. So usually I'll pick the most impactful one or use the initial ending as I originally planned for that story.

Anyway, just make a happy ending when in doubt IMO.
 
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