Friday, October 28, 2011

Endings (and Beginnings)

Recently, at the CapClave convention in Gaithersburg, I was a panelist on the ironically named ENDINGS panel, which happened to be the final panel at the Con. The four writers on the panel talked about the types of endings they used and the struggles they all faced in creating the"right" one.

While everyone agreed that every writer has some idea of the goal of a story. it was more true than not that the definition of that goal changed as the writer introduces one fact, one incident, and one plot twist after another into the exposition.  What started out as an idea of a perfect ending for the situation turns out to be less than satisfactory by the time they reach the end and will probably fail to provide the release from tension created.  Worse yet, the reader may not accept the original goal and feel cheated as a result.  The non sequitur is never a good idea.

The best ending, we all agreed, should both reflect the opening scene or premise and be the logical conclusion of the story's major arc.  Just like a good joke, the punch line comes quickly after the epiphany and the quicker the better!

Too often I discover that the true beginning of my stories are not where I started, but one or more scenes or chapters further along. I sometimes, but not always, discover that, by moving that scene or snippet to the front and incorporating what was formerly there as an aside or even reflected as back story during the exposition, This not only increases the dramatic tension in a short story, but it also clarifies the story's movement toward the epiphany and tells me how the ending needs to be framed.  Simply providing a logical solution or resolution to the story's situation does not always satisfy the reader.  There should always be a denouement that reflects psychologically to the beginning.  

So in talking about the endings we end up talking about the beginning as well, which only proves that the beginning and end are the Ying and Yang of a story. Apart they are nothing and together they constitute a logical whole.

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