How do you decide what sort of event ends your story? How do you set the scale and the stakes for that event? And once you’ve made these decisions, how do you set about writing the best possible ending?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Delia Sherman joined us aboard the Independence of the Seas for our question-and-answer installment on endings. The questions came from the attendees at the Writing Excuses Workshop, which was, lest anyone forget, on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The questions:
Why do more short stories than novels end on tragic notes?
How do you keep an ending from being predictable or boring?
How do you write a stand-alone ending with sequel potential?
What are the best ways to avoid infodump endings?
Are there differences between writing the first novel in a series and other novels in the series?
How do you know which questions to leave unanswered?
What sort of attention do you give to your last lines?
This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered in a soundproofed bullet-train by Alex Jackson.
Nalo Hopkinson joins us again, at sea, for our second Master Class installment on endings. We cover some of the reasons why an ending might not be working, and then talk about the sorts of diagnoses that will help you solve the problem. You’ll likely need to dig deep in your toolbox. Our episodes covering the MICE quotient, promises made to the readers, and the Hollywood formula may be worth reviewing in this process.
Nalo Hopkinson joins us for this episode, which we recorded before a live audience of Out Of Excuses Workshop & Retreat attendees. October’s master class episodes focus on endings, and in this first installment we talk about what an ending really is. It’s obviously the last part of the book, but the gestalt of “ending” is so much more than just “The End,” and it’s important that we understand all that before committing ourselves to being done writing it.
(Note: You can start writing your ending any time you want. Stopping writing your ending, and being done with it? There’s the rub.)
This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered ashore in a secret laboratory by Alex Jackson.
Take an ending you’ve written (the ending of your Master Class story would be a fine choice for this) and trim it, pushing it earlier in the story. See how early it can appear, and how this changes things.
Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson, narrated by Robin Miles
This is our fourth and final SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episode. This episode’s story, “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler, is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.
We still have a few of the first-printing hardcovers left, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the electronic edition at no additional charge.
This week we find Howard in trouble. He is, in a word, stuck.
Can our heroes help him? Can special guest Eric James Stone lend enough of his special guest expertise to complete the rescue?
We start with a discussion of what was working, so that Howard doesn’t accidentally “fix” something that isn’t broken. Then we wade into the weeds and go hunting for the pieces he needs in order to finish the story. And when we say “the weeds,” we’re talking serious wandering. The episode runs a full half-hour long…
You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and “you painted yourself into a corner” may very well be some sort of a spell.
The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
What do you do when the ending you’ve planned won’t be emotionally satisfying? You know, when you’ve discovered during the course of writing the story that you’re making promises to the reader that this particular ending won’t keep?
Mary talks about her recent experience with this exact problem in an as-yet-unpublished project. Howard talks about how he had to come up with a new set of concluding moments for Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (which you can read for free here.) Dan weighs the difficulties he’s having with a current project, and how he had to brainstorm what the story was supposed to be accomplishing, rather than simply what the plot was.
We examine the various tools that we use to solve this problem, which probably offers you some motivation to keep filling your own toolbox.
These rules cover character development, plot structure, process, and much more. No, we weren’t able to give them all deep coverage, but this serves as a great refresher on lots of things we’ve covered in the past.
Merry Christmas! Here’s the last episode of Writing Excuses Season 6! We decided to end the season with a discussion of endings. Specifically, we answer cries for help that we’ve gotten. The cries answered include:
I’m 90% done and I’ve painted myself into a corner! How do I end this book without resorting to deus ex machina?
The best part of this book was 75% of the way through! I need the highlight to be at the END!
My outline isn’t working here at the end! How do I know when to abandon it?
Help! I want both a satisfying ending and room for a sequel! (hint: we use an object lesson here…)