First of all, I want to thank the folks at Writer’s Digest for putting this blog in their list of 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2012. It’s much appreciated.
Today I thought I’d kick around the topic of endings again…since they’re my nemesis and I’m dealing with them now. :) Beginnings are something that I have absolutely no problem with. I almost always open with dialogue that deals with a problem resulting from the mystery or the future victim.
But endings drive me a little crazy. I’m turning in a manuscript in May and I’m done with it so I thought I’d give it a couple of days to just marinate while I worked on my next project.
I decided I wasn’t crazy about my ending for the book. It ended on a bit of a down-note. I didn’t think that would be very popular with my readers since I always end on an up-note. I have, for the first time, put in a series subplot and it was the subplot that created this down ending.
I’ve got to be vague here since obviously this isn’t a book that’s even going to hit the shelves until spring 2013. Basically, I wanted to keep the ending for the subplot, but I wanted to extend the book’s ending so that there’s something positive happening at the end of the book (and so readers will want to read book three!)
What I did was to make some lists…my favorite way to work through plot problems or to generate plot ideas. To come up with an alternate/extended ending I:
Made a list of as many possible endings for the book that I could come up with. These ranged from the sublime to the completely ridiculous. The idea was just to come up with options and to get my creative juices going. No, aliens are not going to come down and take up the citizens of Dappled Hills in their spaceship. Brainstorm as many as you can, even if you get an idea that you like. Especially if you get an idea that you like, because you may find that you can come up with an even better one.
Took another look at various subplots in my story while brainstorming my list. One of my subplots involved membership for the protagonist’s quilting guild, for instance. Another involved a newcomer trying to fit in to the cliquey small town. I realized I could combine the two subplots to create an ending that would also lead into the next book in the series.
Brainstormed ways to connect to the theme of the book. I’ve got a couple of different themes running in the series—as basic as quilting and the fabric of friendship and as complex as adjusting to life changes and aging. It’s always a good idea to check back with your themes and look for tie-ins at the end.
Those are what works for me and for my genre. But for other books, I’ve seen writers plant doubt, hint at future conflict, and create a change through a secondary character and his interaction with the protagonist.
Do you have a tough time with endings? How do you create resolution at the end of your story?