Welcome to The Bump House

Monday, November 22, 2010

End of the Line

What's in an ending? Everything! Writing the first sentence, paragraph & page is an exercise in foreshadowing how the story will end. Even the title can be indicative of the type of ending a novel will have. Some examples:

A Long Fatal Love Chase
Eat, Pray, Love
Fall of the House of Usher
Little Women
         Into Thin Air

According to James Scott Bell, in his book Writing Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, there are 5 novel endings to consider.

HEA - MC gets the brass ring. In romance, this is paramount to the story. It is the basis for the fairy tales we love so well. Imagine Cinderella without Prince Charming, Snow White without the Dwarfs, Hansel & Gretel without the bread crumbs & deception, or Shrek without Fiona. 

Unhappily Ever After - MC loses brass ring, the girl, the kingdom. Le Morte D'Arthur & A Tale of Two Cities are perfect & imperfect examples of this. Arthur ultimately loses his life, his wife & his Camelot. And for what? On the other side, Darnay & Lorry play out a foreshadowed death. However, the marginal bits of happiness achieved are defined by the spectre of looming death.

Tragedy Abounds - MC gains one thing only to lose another. Arthur gains peace only to lose everything else. Dorothy gains home only to lose her friends (in a manner of speaking). This is the classic Greco-Roman tragedy; the yin & yang of internal growth coupled with loss of another sort.

For the Greater Good - MC lets go of the objective in order to serve a higher purpose. A Tale of Two Cities fits this theme as well. One man's happiness is predicated on another's sacrifice. The Lord of the Rings is fraught with sacrificing one's self for the greater good of Middle Earth. 

Ah, 'tis bitter & sweet - Most often seen in literary fiction, this type of ending is anomalous. There are no definitives for the MC. A rose is just a rose. An ending is just an ending. The World According to Garp springs to mind. Also, Romeo & Juliet - together for eternity, united only in death.

In writing, the end justifies the beginning. It is the frosting on the cake that is built from that bottom cake layer. The type of ending is predicated upon what the writer wishes to ultimately achieve. There is nothing that says the end has to be happy, but it does have to organically grow from that very first utterance.

Happy Writing,


No comments:

Post a Comment