Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 6: Endings

Episode 6, recorded live at Dragon’s Keep opens with monkey noises and greeting-card pith, and ends with… well, we’ll just let you listen. Is it a storybook ending? What IS a storybook ending? What is a whiz-bang ending? Is the ending the ending, or is the ending followed by a denouement? How important is a good ending?

Writing Prompt: Take whatever you’re working on right now, look at the ending you have planned now and then come up with two other endings and write all three.

This week Writing Excuses is brought to you by Geek at Play Studio.


21 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 6: Endings”

  1. Yea, (sort of). Next episode is up early.
    Of course this would be one of the few weeks where I will not be leaving early in the darkness on Monday.
    Why, why must you torment me so. Early updates when I leave late, and late updates when I leave early. It just isn’t fair.

    And the first one of you monkeys who tells me life isn’t fair I’m going to smack silly on general principal.

  2. Agreed WEKM, I’ll bet Dan thinks this makes up for last week. We fans are not so forgiving.

    btw – I am so glad that Brandon came to New York City on Friday night and I got to meet him at Barnes and Noble! And that there were other Writing Excuses fans in the audience. It was awesome.

    Hollah, i.m.bitter! I’m talking to you! Yay meeting people from onine here out there.

    And what an awesome discussion we got to have with Brandon about his books and his writing process. I wish you all could have been there. I wanna go on record and encourage Brandon to regale all with his further explanations of how he designs magic systems (beyond where we went in the early podcast on that topic) in a future episode.

  3. Howard – I lost the delusion that I was “in control” of my fiction LONG ago.

    Yeah, I’ll come back when (if?) I actually have something intelligent to say. Thanks for another great ‘cast?

  4. Is there anyone out there who actually thinks they have control over these voices in our heads?

    I’m going to go lay down, listen to the podcast and be sick. Stupid flu.

  5. No…the voices all hate me, but it’s OK, because I can kill them after I give them life on paper.

    As far as endings go, I like to make mine short and snappy. I personally don’t like having to read huge amounts of wrap ups and expose after the big climax/fight scene/whatever. If a story (especially middle stories) can end with an adrenaline rush but still satisfy the plot line, it will leave the reader less chance of growing bored.

  6. This was a great podcast for me to think about. I have a huge problem with endings. The voices in my head like to tell long, meandering stories.

    I have five or six short stories/novellas that I have written since I started writing again all of which have non-endings or aren’t finished.

    I have liked to think of myself as a journey writer, someone who starts with a great idea and then just goes with the flow and lets the characters take over. But I never have started a story knowing where it will end. And I’m beginning to think this is my single greatest problem.

    Maybe outlining is the solution for me. It’s certainly something I’m going to try for the story I’m writing now!

  7. I don’t think knowing your ending in advance necessarily demands that you outline. You should be able to say, my ending will be [this] and then sort of guide your characters’ meanderings in that direction without imposing the structure of an outline. I’ve always outlined fairly rigidly, but for my NaNoWriMo story I’m trying to practice discovery writing. I think I’m actually somewhere in between, though. I know how my novel’s going to end and identified a couple of plot checkpoints before I got started, but have no clear idea what’s happening along the way until I sit and write, hoping I’ll eventually hit my checkpoints. I don’t know whether that counts as discovery writing or not. :-)

  8. Is it bad planning on my part if I’m not sure how the my book is going to end? I have a general goal in mind, but nothing specific on how to get there. I understand that your characters can drive the story in ways that you are not aware of, but shouldn’t you at least have a concise goal to work towards? Your thoughts.

  9. @ M

    Sounds like you’re describing the same thing I did. Like I said, I have a basic idea of how my story is going to end and a couple of checkpoints–act endings, I guess you could call them. I’m trying to guide the plot there but if it wants to noodle on the way I let it. I don’t think it’s bad planning. That’s what discovery writing is supposed to be about I think. I compare it to going for a drive. You’re going to end up at the mall eventually but first you’re going to drive around and look at some pretty fall scenery.

  10. DAN! Get out of my head!
    It’s not a happy place right now and I don’t need you waking up the sleeping demons.

    Oddly enough, I already have three different endings for the current story I’m working on, All three of them required totally separate outlines to work. I am going with one that is oddly the blend of the other two less the other characters that were necessary for either one to work.

    However, Dan, I feel like I should throw you into the mix, just so I can have the bad guy kill you off in a completely pointless way that has no bearing on anything. Yes, a nice senseless brutal death, with much torture and screaming. Mmmmmmm

  11. M – Sam’s analogy works pretty well. There’s another one by some famous person who may or may not have been Ezra Pound (I hope I’m remembering that wrong, cause I’d hate to agree with anything Ezra Pound said) is that writing is like driving at night – you know where you’re going, but you can only see as far as the headlights in front of you.

    That seems to me to be the sort of approach you’re talking about, and no, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not going to work for everyone, but as long as it works for you, who cares?

  12. Thanks Sam and Raethe, I feel much better…but after listening to WEKM’s bloodlust…I’m not sure I am as comfortable a I should be! : )

  13. As far as good endings and bad endings go, the ending to Snow Crash felt a little flat to me, like it just stopped instead of actually ending. The Hero of Ages, on the other hand, had an awesome ending that felt like it properly wrapped up the series.

  14. I listened to this again today and was reminded of something when they were talking about the ending of The Lord Of The Rings and how it turned the rule on its ear. One of my all time favorite endings (it’s a movie, not a book, but I think the rules still apply) is Rocky. Under the usual cliche of sports movies, Rocky is a scrappy underdog who has just fought a brilliant battle. By convention, he should win. He doesn’t. He loses the fight, but it’s still a happy ending because he stayed true to himself and he got the girl to boot. Like with LOTR, I love the fact that it defied convention but the ending stayed true to the story and the characters.

  15. M,

    Note that both Stephen King and Dean Koontz start with a situation and then write forward from that point, not knowing what the ending or journey will be. Others find it easier to have some general points mapped out, maybe just an idea of the ending. Others, like Jeffery Deaver, find they need extreme detail before they can begin to write scenes.

    However, if you think about it, these folks aren’t doing different things. They’re both discovering/generating story. It’s just that one set finds they’re more productive doing it with an outline, in summary first. The other finds it more effective for them to do it immediately in scene. I’ve found it useful to look at the task as inventing story, not writing vs. outlining. Those are just two tools.

    So there isn’t a best way. Only the most efficient and effective way or tool for you. So knowing the end may NOT be necessary for you.

    I’ve found that I work best if I do some of my story discovery/generation in outline first. I use a step sheet–bullets of the plot steps I see. Maybe no more than a few pages that I update and revise as I go. Sometimes the step sheet has bullets for scenes all the way to the end. Sometimes it just shows me the next half-dozen to dozen steps in detail and vague ideas after that. Many people eschew outlines, thinking they’re contraining. But they’re only contraining if you think they’re set in stone. I find both tools useful in discovering my story.

  16. M; I am just trying to make Dan feel loved, sick twisted horror writer that he is.

    I think my ending may have slipped into a fourth field now. I think I am just going to have to see where it ends up. The more I write, the less I know where this is going. I have already decided that a scene that was to be at the end after the whole climax is now going to be near the beginning.
    Now how am I going to wrap things up?

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