Thursday, August 25, 2011
The End--two of the most satisfying words an author can write. My fourth manuscript for Thomas Nelson is due a week from today and I’m rushing toward the end with less than 1,000 words to go and one more scene to write. Then I can celebrate and breathe easy for a few weeks!
I like to write the ending of a manuscript not just because it signals the culmination of a long project, but also because I actually enjoy the process as opposed to developing middles. By the time I arrive at the last act I know my characters and plot so well it’s easy to write. Relatively. Unlike the beginning, there are only so many ways to conclude a story. And unlike ‘sagging middles,’ the ending is relatively short. It’s the resolution of conflicts that many of us don’t like writing because we like our characters to get along and be happy.
The forces that you’ve developed during the middle of the book will collide at the climax. Something has to give—things can’t keep going the way they were. Peaceful endings are anti-climactic and disappointing to the reader. Can anyone think of a satisfying resolution that didn’t involve some kind of confrontation between the forces in opposition?
You must use the same characters, tensions, and conflicts etc. that are developing through the story at the conclusion. No fair bringing in the cavalry to bail out your characters!
The ending has to fulfill the promise you made to your reader throughout the story. Did you promise love? Or justice? Or terror? Don’t promise love and then deliver only heart stopping terror. If it’s romantic suspense, you’ll want the plot to resolve, but you also want the love between the hero and heroine to come together, too.
It’s a good idea to list the forces you’ve set into conflict earlier so you’ll remember to deal with each and every one of them. No loose ends or your reader will feel dissatisfied and cheated!
Most story endings have two parts: the climax and the denouement.
The climax is the clash of the forces at the big, important story event that brings it all together. It often shows how the protagonist has changed. It’s the payoff.
The climax should do four things:
1. It must satisfy the view of life implied in your story.
2. It must deliver emotion—especially important in a romance.
3. It must deliver the appropriate level of emotion.
4. It must be logical to the plot and believable for the characters.
The ending grows out of who the characters are. The climax usually takes at least a chapter, sometimes several chapters.
The denouement comes after the climax. Its function is to wrap up the story. It shows the reader the consequences of the plot and the fate of any characters that are not accounted for in the climax. To be successful it has three characteristics: closure, brevity and dramatization.
Once you satisfy all these things you can write The End and smile at your accomplishment-- unless you have an Epilogue, but that’s a topic for another post.
Do you have a favorite section to write? Any reason why?
I’m giving away a copy of Love by the Book, the newest historical romance in the Ladies of Summerhill series. Please leave your e-mail address if you’d like to be in the drawing.