Response #6: EndingsPosted: March 20, 2012
Due March 26 or 27.
By ending, I don’t mean the last few pages, the denouement. By ending, I mean THE KNOCKOUT. The PAYOFF. The BIG MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
Qualities of a Satisfactory Novel Ending
- The ending seems both inevitable and surprising at the same time. It doesn’t “come out of nowhere.” It isn’t predictable.
- The ending is the result of the character’s actions. The ending is not the result of something happening to the character, but rather the result of a deliberate choice.
- The ending must actually end. Something finalizes, concludes, gets tied off. Even if the story will go on as a series, there still needs to be some sort of provisional ending.
- Something changes. Otherwise, your novel is just a bunch of scenes strung together.
- The ending is sufficiently complex and brings together a number of layers–consider for example the end of The Sweet Hereafter. Nicole’s choice effectively concludes ALL the subplots of the book.
- The ending “matters,” meaning that there was something at stake and now, something is irrevocably changed.
- It’s emotionally or intellectually satisfying.
Qualities of an Unsatisfactory Novel Ending
- Here’s some: http://www.dancaster.com/writing08.htm
- You cheat and everything ends happily ever after.
- Or you gloss over some vital steps in order to “get to the end.”
- You bail on a subplot, plot layer, and/or plot thread and leave it dangling. You leave burning questions still burning.
- The story is too simple, not layered, and so the outcome doesn’t resonate as fully for the reader, who thinks, “Eh…”
- There’s only an exterior change in circumstances for the character, not an internal change. Or vice versa.
Go ahead and write (or write about) what you think is the most pivotal scene, or series of connected scenes, what you imagine will be the end of your novel–remembering, of course, that this can certainly change later.
Don’t put your entire ending in this response, just a paragraph or a description of what will happen. Put the actual ending in your Weekly Words due Friday. For this response, respond to having written/thought through the ending. Consider these questions:
- Does the scene have a beginning, middle, and end?
- What do you imagine will be the scene immediately preceding this scene?
- What scene will immediately follow it?
- Why is this scene the most fundamental scene of your novel?
- Does it bring together the various plot layers and subplots of the novel? What will make it satisfying, do you think?
Also consider these questions:
- What do you like in an ending, generally? What don’t you like? What–to you–constitutes a satisfactory ending or “pay off”?
- What are some of your favorite (and least favorite) endings and what made them good (or bad)? What can you learn from them?
- How do you feel about having thought through the ending? Does this feel wrong? Does this feel good? Some say you should never know the end, because this takes all the surprise out of writing. Others say it’s impossible to write a novel and NOT know the end. What’s your opinion?
Remember that your response must be about 500-750 words.