*Disclaimer: This blog series is written from the perspective of Gabrielle’s villain, Edward. Gabrielle does not claim all of Edwards opinions as her own. She does not believe modern society needs to be destroyed, though she’s really hoping none of her readers need that clarification.
Oh, and there may be an Avengers: Infinity War spoiler below. You’ve been warned.
Gabrielle: sits atop a picnic table, tapping away at her keyboard
Edward: wanders nearby, practicing an evil monologue …and that’s why I believe modern society should end. There is a purity in death, an innocence in starting over. Even ashes are white.
Gabrielle: gives him a weird look Why are you being so dramatic?
Edward: I’m preparing. You never know when you will run into a hero you must impress with your eloquence. Besides, it’s a perfect introduction.
Gabrielle: Introduction to what?
Edward: Our lesson on endings.
Gabrielle: Of course.
Edward: turns to readers Endings give extra value and resonance to a story. Unfortunately, writers are not infallible. They botch their endings, just like Gabrielle bungles most of her art pieces.
Edward: But never fear, you don’t have to fail like Gabrielle. If you avoid long resolutions, sudden tone changes, and unconnected character arcs, you’re well on your way to a strong ending.
This is one of Gabrielle’s pet peeves, and I can’t say I’m overly fond of it myself.
After the climax, there is usually loose threads to tie up. It’s all well and good to use one or two scenes to show readers where the hero ends up, but some writers extend their story too long.
Following the massive confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist, the tension and stakes fall. They are what drag readers onward. Without them, readers don’t have to worry if your MC will succeed. There is less urgency to continue reading.
Usually, the villain is out of the picture by then as well, which is why they read your story in the first place. For the villain.
Gabrielle: rolls her eyes
Edward: The overall conflict needs to be wrapped up during the climax. Anything left over should only take up a scene or two after. It’s not necessary to drag it on after the initial conflict has vanished.
Your story has a certain tone. Your ending must match it. rubs his jaw I had a good example, but I can’t remember what it was from. Gabrielle, what is that film you’ve been going on about?
Gabrielle: I’ve told you a thousand times. It’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Edward: Ah, yes. The writers did a wonderful job with matching the ending with the rest of the story. The entire movie was riddled with darkness and tragedy. If they had ended the movie happily, the conclusion would not have matched the tone that pervaded the rest of the film. Readers would have been thrown off.
In other words, if your story is a happy one, give it a marginally happy ending. If it’s sad, make it bittersweet. Don’t add an earth-shatteringly sad death to the end of your happy story, and don’t reverse all the death and destruction that has occurred in your depressing one.
Unrelated Character Arcs
Let’s say your character has a positive character arc and is going to change into a better person.
If his change has no effect on the climax, his arc is borderline useless. His beliefs need to affect how his story turns out. If not, impact is lost.
Perhaps your protagonist must learn to trust others. If he doesn’t, he’s going to walk into battle alone and get killed by the overlord he’s trying to defeat. But if he trusts, he’ll bring his comrades with him, and they’ll overthrow the overlord together.
See what I’m saying? A character’s change of heart must determine how the story ends.
Or you can have all your heroes fail anyway because evil overlords are very hard to overthrow.
Gabrielle: Edward, not every main character is defeated by his villain.
Edward: Tell that to the Avengers.
Gabrielle: Too soon!
Gabrielle: mutters I swear I’m going to find some of your baby pictures and share them if you don’t stop being mean.
Edward: pales No. I look unbearably cute.
Gabrielle: louder Who wants to see Edward’s baby pictures?
Edward: flushes and disappear in a cloud of fog and an epic cape swirl
Gabrielle: coughs on the fog Well then. looks for Edward I think he disappears like that when he’s embarrassed. Sorry ’bout that. mutters And he’s gone off and left me without a conclusion, too.
Anyhow, what did you think? Do you believe it’s important to relate a character’s arc to the climax? What are some other ending mistakes you could add to the list?
Edward Stone and Gabrielle R. Pollack