Hi, everyone, and welcome to the final post in my “Plotting Your Story” series:
Plotting Your Story, Step #7: The Perfect Ending!
You’ve planned out the whole story… you know basically what you want to happen. But… how do you end it?
To be clear, I’m assuming you probably haven’t written the story yet. This step is talking about deciding on the perfect ending and planning for it, so that you can build toward it beautifully throughout the whole rest of the book as you write.
If you’re lucky, you already nailed down your idea for the perfect ending in the previous steps… but if the ending hasn’t quite clicked yet, or you just want some help making sure it’s really the best for your story, then this step will help you figure that out.
There are three basic questions to consider when deciding on an ending:
- What tone do you want your story to end on? (sad, happy, ominous, ambiguous, etc.)
- What type of arc does your story have? (i.e., character changes positively, [positive arc], character changes negatively [negative arc], character ends up the same as always but the world around them changes [flat arc])
- Is it part of a series? (In which case, the ending may also need to leave some things open for future books or possibly even include a cliff-hanger.)
Once you have the answers to these three questions, you’re ready to start figuring out your ending.
Here are some steps to help you hone down to your perfect ending:
- Pull out the Premise you created in Step #1 and look at the result & resolution.
- Examine this against your Internal & External Arc endings from Step #2 and Step #3.
- Does your premise still fit your arcs, or have some things changed from your original concept? It’s okay if they have! If you have discovered that your premise doesn’t quite fit your new idea for the story, take a minute to go back to your Premise and change it to match your new ideas (DO THIS NOW). This updated Premise is going to work as the focal point for your story, your check that you’re staying on track as you write.
- Okay, now that you’ve done that, you need to create an ending that satisfies ALL of these while also leaving the reader with your desired ending tone/feeling… Take some time and really think through how your external plot is coming together and what changes are happening within your character.
- Piece together an idea for an ending that includes:
- What will happen in this final scene (external)
- What the character will learn or how they will either change as a result or show they have already changed as a result of the events of the story (internal)
- How will this final scene wrap up so that your reader is left feeling what you want them to feel?
The really difficult part of the perfect ending is deciding what your goal for the book really is. Do you want to leave readers crying in a puddle? Do you want your book to leave them feeling happy and content? Do you want your book to leave them in suspense, eager for the next one?
Whatever you choose, remember this one thing:
Your ending must satisfy the reader.
Even if you leave them crying or barely hanging by their fingernails on a massive cliff-hanger, you must still give them something that resolves, or they will only feel frustrated and it will sour their entire reading experience. Readers need to feel that something worthwhile happened in this book and that it amounted to a significant experience or change in the characters or their world… and as a result, in the reader. To do that, your ending must resolve the main conflict of this book (both the internal and the external) at least on some level, even if you leave smaller things open for future books.
(because I’m not actually your teacher and I can’t make you, but seriously, do it because it will help!)
Plan your perfect ending by answering the following questions, and then rewrite the ending of your Detailed Outline to include your new plan for your story’s ending.
I’ve actually created a section in my Forum where you can post your Ending plans! If you want feedback, feel free to post your assignment there and I’ll leave you some comments!
Coming next week… Plotting Your Story, Step #7: The Perfect Ending! This will be the last post in this series!
For more about this blog series as a whole, please read the Intro Post. Be sure to also check out the previous posts in the series!
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