Creative Writing and Memoir Class  March 16, 2022

Carol Brennan King

OK Gang, as those of you in the greater Clarks Summit area know, I had a little accident breaking my kneecap last week. I found that good news just after class on the 16th. I am blaming my delay in posting class notes on the crutches which were dangerous, the walker which was embarrassing, the walking stick the doctor did not like because I did not have enough points on the ground, and the wheelchair I am in right now…to keep my leg straight and up…and which works well until my backside begins sending out pain signals. But to the point, here are some notes from last week.

We talked about the challenging task of writing good endings to our stories and books because if they aren’t any good, we probably will not have any more readers. Kind of important, huh.

For starters, our book’s ending should

  1. be logical. We should have dropped enough clues along the way, that the way we end the story should make sense. That doesn’t mean it is predictable, but it does mean the reader can say, “I might not have expected that, but I can see how it works.”
  2. be satisfying. Remember how we said a good book is made up of lots of sequential conflicts, each one a bit more serious than the final “blow out all stops challenge?” To say that our ending is satisfying means that we have resolved all of those conflicts one way or the other and answered the questions they created.

We did talk about how you could leave a bit of a cliffhanger if you are writing a sequel, but it cannot be related to the big idea in this book.

3. have a sense of the show is over, the story ended. If you envision a series using these characters, this part of their story is over, but they live on.

So what are the elements of an ending that satisfies?

  1. The story arc has ended with resolution for the protagonist.
  2. Change has occurred to the protagonist and perhaps other characters. Remember that character arc thing we talked about? People change as they mature. Note the word mature. So we can expect that the main character or characters will have grown as they faced and overcame challenges. Maybe not all of the challenges, but in each situation, they went away having learned something.
  3. Remember how we talked about the issue of conflict being key to good storytelling. Conflict means there will be some doubt about the outcome right up to the end. The reader is more satisfied if that journey, tense to the end, is resolved when the protagonist wins, or accomplishes his or her mission.
  4. The reader just hasn’t figured it all out until the curtain falls. That element of surprise makes a great ending. Think about how you feel when you tear the wrapping off a gift and what you find is almost exactly or it is exactly what you wanted but didn’t dare imagine.

And how do you get there – writing that ending that really works?

  1. You need to do the work of knowing the ending before you get seriously into the writing. For sure, having an idea of where you are going simplifies and speeds up the writing. You have a target where you must get all the key characters together to show how this journey affected them. And knowing the ending guides you as you write the path, what crumbs do you need to leave along the path to make everything fall into place?
  2. You must build tension. Things must happen to and involving your key characters that put them at risk. The longer you can make that tension last or build new reasons for tension, the more un-put-downable will your story be.
  3. And your first ending does not have to be the last. Try on a few different ones. Think about the protagonist and how differing possible endings would affect him or her. Remember again, the character arc. Those arcs are not smooth, like the ones you draw with a protractor. Look up close, and you will see a lot of jigs and jogs on the path as the character reacts to what he or she encounters. Sometimes they make good choices and sometimes not so good choices, just like we do.
  4. Next, make sure that you ending does make sense. Your reader has to be satisfied, or as I said earlier, no more of your books. The reader wants a believable resolution of the plot line.
  5. Your reader must be moved. Emotionally! They want to feel something. The ending that stirs emotions keeps the reader involved, even after the last page is turned. So give your reader something to feel, and they will talk about your book to other book readers and buyers.

BECAUSE I KNEW WE WOULD NOT HAVE CLASS THE WEEK OF THE 23RD, I am providing a couple of websites to check out.

The Foolscap Method of writing a book or how to get the book mapped out on one page.

  1. Here are the links to Steven Pressfield’s demonstration of the foolscap method.

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