Jun
17
2013

Delivering the Promised Ending

“It's as if you begin the story by pushing a boulder off the top of a hill. No matter what else happens before the end of the story, the reader won't be satisfied until the boulder comes to rest somewhere.” ~Orson Scott Card

 

I can say that I tend to write character-event stories, but in the end, what does this mean?  In Filtering with MICE, I discussed how I categorize works into the various aspects of MICE by looking at the throughline (the initiating event, character motivation and climax).  As I’ve been writing these last 18 weeks of posts, I have been increasingly concerned with endings.  It is wonderful fun to give that boulder the first push and watch its path as it careens down the hill, but where does it end?  How do we know when we are done?  It depends on the type of story you are telling and the promises you have made to your readers.

Milieu tales are about the exploration of setting.  The protagonist leaves their home and sets out on an adventure that exposes them to a series of new people, cultures and places.  The story ends when the character either chooses to settle down in a place that is superior to their starting point or when they return home after their adventure.

Idea stories are about the exploration of concept.  The protagonist is forced from normalcy and must either face some concept that challenges their world view or come to a resolution regarding some question to be answered.  The story ends when the character either comes to terms with the challenge presented by the idea or solves the mystery.

Character stories are about the exploration of individuals.  The protagonist either finds their current situation unbearable or is presented with some challenge to their world view that forces them to change.  The character sets out to better their situation, and in the process of that effort, is changed.  The story ends when the character either succeeds in changing their circumstances or despairs and returns to their original state.

Event stories are about the exploration of cause and effect.  The protagonist is responding to some occurrence or summons.  Event stories end when the chain of events runs its course and the protagonists succeed or fail.

Resolutions have always provided an interesting balancing challenge for me.  On the one hand, I want them to be long enough to be satisfying, but not so long as to bore the reader.  How do I tie up the most loose ends possible and do so in an efficient and interesting way?  Which are the most important strings of plot to resolve, and which should I leave for resolution in the next work?  It’s a judgment call that, in the end, it mostly feels right.  So long as the throughline has come to a satisfying resolution, the reader will often view the story’s promises as kept and be eager to pick up your next volume.

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