Craft Corner: Wrapping Things Up

Welcome to the Class of 2k21 Craft Corner! These posts will be dedicated to sharing writing tips and tricks we’ve picked up on our journeys to publication. Each month features a new theme with insights from members of the Class of 2k21; this month, we’re sharing tips on writing strong endings.

Whether you are a long-time creative with too many ideas to wrangle or a beginner with no idea where to start, we hope you’ll find something you can apply to your writing journey. Let’s get started!

Payal Doshi: As hard as beginnings are to write, endings come much more easily to me. Being a plotter and writing plot-heavy books, I need to know how my story ends before I begin writing my first draft. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘villain/antagonist is destroyed in a big battle by the hero and their friends’ or it’s a vivid scene about how the protagonist wins and the antagonist fails. I like having that goal post in mind so I can direct my final chapters towards that climatic moment. The other two things I keep in mind when writing endings are emotional character growth like Sam mentioned above and ‘balance’. In many cases, endings in fantasy novels require a fair amount of action scenes like epic battles or big confrontation scenes between hero and villain along with monologues given by the villain (especially) to explain their antagonistic behavior. This is where the ‘balance’ comes in. I try giving the action scenes and the big pieces of dialogue equal weight. Too much action and little explanation or vice-versa can make for an unsatisfying or rushed ending especially in fantasy novels which spend so much time building up to that explosive ending. For those writing sequels, don’t close the door completely on the story. Leave it a wee bit ajar, inviting readers to the exciting possibility of a whole new story to come!

Sam Taylor: For me, one of the most important parts of planning (or revising!) the ending is thinking about who the character has become. The events of the story should have changed them in some fundamental way. Whether that change has empowered them to finally achieve what they set out to do--or made them wiser, to understand that they actually need something else in their life--the character won’t be the same person they were at the beginning of the story. In a satisfying climatic scene, the character is able to respond to those challenges in a way they never would have been able to do at the start of the book. Readers will recognize that personal change (Greater strength! Or compassion. Self-confidence. And on and on!) and truly be able to cheer for a character who’s brought about a well-deserved ending.

Megan E. Freeman: Often when drafting, it’s clear to me what the beginning of the story is about and I have a strong inkling how the story is going to end, but how to get from A to Z is more of a mystery. In the case of my novel, ALONE, I was working with a clear, linear chronology. I knew the main character would age and face different challenges at different times of the year (seasons, weather, resources, etc.) and at different times in her development (birthdays, getting her period, boredom, existential angst). Having those clear benchmarks helped keep the story moving forward and avoid getting bogged down in the middle. On my current work-in-progress, though, I didn’t have the same kind of linear chronology and so avoiding the murky middle was tougher. I ended up going back to theories of acting from my days in the theater. I asked myself, “What is the overarching want/need/desire my character is seeking (his objective), what’s in his way (his obstacle), and what is he going to do to try to overcome the obstacle (his action). By assessing every scene in terms of objective, obstacle, and action, it quickly became clear which scenes were superfluous and likely to bog down the pacing, and which ones were moving the character closer or farther from his goal. I rewrote some of the superfluous scenes to infuse them with more momentum (objective/obstacle/action) and others I cut. The end result was a story in which every scene matters to the plot or character development and every scene moves the reader toward what I hope will be a satisfying ending.

Thanks for joining us for Craft Corner; we hope you've found the series useful, and we wish you the best of luck on your writing journey in 2022 and beyond!