So the past few short stories I’ve written, I’ve been struggling a lot on the endings. First of all, I know I want the stories to be shorts, and I know how to end it, but I don’t know how to bridge that middle to the end.
I am what you call a “pantser” in writing terms. I just jump right into whatever I’m writing and I run with it. So, sometimes I find myself running off course. I’m about 3,000 words into the story and I know I have to start wrapping it up soon or else it’s going to be too long to be categorized as a short!
This is when I just write the ending and try my hardest to fill the gap with a good transition. Unfortunately, I can tell when I read the story back that it’s just me wrapping things up and it didn’t go as smoothly as I planned. Fortunately, you guys only read the excerpts and I have some time to go back and rewrite the ending before I post the full version on here.
It’s funny when I talk with other writers/screenwriters, they always have this outline and a ton of other tools they use to make sure their plot goes the way they want it to. When I do try to outline, I find that my story falls a little flat. I’m so focused on following the outline and the structure that I set up, that I tend to lose the quality of the story. In short, I lose its essence. I’m baffled by the people who can outline and plan ahead because I wonder how they can get their story written. It feels weird to me that I’m planning something out that I don’t even know if it’ll work with my characters, the setting, etc. When people use webs and timelines, story arc charts… it’s all foreign to me.
I struggled a lot in school whenever I had to outline an essay, a project, or a presentation. I hated having to force all my thoughts out right then and there. It was a hard struggle to get through, and eventually I dropped every notion of “planning” before I started to write and my grade for the essays went up more than if I had outlined it in the first place.
Getting back to the topic at hand, I wanted to talk about endings. Endings are not always permanent, they are just there to wrap up the story you are telling. Sometimes endings are cliffhangers and they’re just a placeholder for the next story to start.
Happy endings are what I call fairytale endings. It’s when everyone in the story gets something that they wanted. All the characters are happy at the end and nothing could go wrong. Writing happy endings isn’t a bad thing, per se. I usually like reading books with endings that don’t cause me to cry in agony over a character in a book. I’m partial to the fairytale ending because it makes me feel better after reading 300+ pages of a story, rooting for the main character, and feeling relieved that they get their personal win without any tragic incidents.
Endings aren’t always happy, though. Those tragic endings are usually a reflection on real life and how real life happens.
If I wanted to read a tragic ending, I would just read the news… amiright?
Tragic endings… to me… are more fun to write. You really delve into the human psyche with these endings. They’re almost always thought-provoking and will grab those emotions that you didn’t think you had and pull them out of you so fast that you can’t even understand how it happened. Tragic endings doesn’t necessarily mean the main character doesn’t get their “win”. There’s usually a sacrifice of some sort that happens to propel the main character into resolving the big problem. The sacrifice can be putting aside personal morals to “win” or losing someone that they “love” in order to “win”.
The first time I experienced a tragic ending was when I was reading a book in my favorite YA series called, A Wizard’s Dilemma by Diane Duane. That story just had me bawling at the end. I don’t want to ruin it for you guys, but I really felt a strong connection with the character afterwards even if I didn’t relate to her tragedy. The notion of losing someone you were close with will grab anyone who’s ever had that go-to person in their life.
Another story that got me was the ending of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy written by Libba Bray. It was another story that was supposed to have a happy ending but instead it turned tragic and I ended up throwing the book across the room and screaming “WHY?!”. I think if my room wasn’t so far away from my parents, they probably would’ve been at my door… especially because I finished it at 2 o’clock in the morning on a school night.
Those feelings I described above are the reasons why I just love writing tragic endings. I want to make my readers feel something. None of that lovey-dovey feel good something, no I want them to actually feel emotion. We all try to suppress our emotions and hide them from the public. We don’t like showing people how we really feel.
It’s really eating us up from the inside! All of our sudden expressions of rage and sadness is a byproduct of suppressing our emotions. It’s why we like to watch movies that make us cry. It’s the reason why we can’t stop reading books that scares us. It’s why we listen to music that reminds us of happier days. WE NEED TO FEEL EMOTIONS.
I feel like I got off topic, again. I apologize.
Endings are usually the easiest to write because we all know how we want the story to begin and end. The middle is what throws us off course. Sometimes, if you’re a “plotter” (planner) you already know what the middle will be like, but nothing is as hard as bridging that second act with the third act! Having that small transition is really what drives the ending home. If you cannot transition the story well, the ending will not perform as well as you want.
You want a walk-off home run… not a strugglefest at the bottom of the ninth! (That, my friend, is the only sports analogy you’ll get from me!)
Have you ever read the ending of a book and just felt disappointed? What drove you to feel this way? Was it the actual ending or was it the events that preceded the ending? If you ever go back to read those books, will you be able to point out where they lost you?
Hopefully you haven’t read very many books that did disappoint you. I can only think of one or two that I’ve read in my lifetime. Those stories also didn’t start off well, but I pushed through reading the whole book in hopes that maybe it will change. Spoilers, they didn’t.
I hope that none of my endings disappoint you and if they do, PLEASE tell me!! I’m working so hard to get all these shorts out to you guys in a timely fashion and I will miss something.
Like I’ve always said, a final draft doesn’t mean it’s finished.
Thanks for reading!
Tell me about your favorite ending! What book made you sad/happy/angry?
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