A few weeks ago I made an In Writing post about worldbuilding where I talked about knowing the history behind your character and their surroundings. That, however, is balanced by the importance held by the end of your protagonist’s story. The very last few words of any tale are the ones that will stick with your audience the longest, in love or hatred. To craft a tale that feels both full and important, the last sentence must be as impactful as the first.
From J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers (part two of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) comes this quote about Frodo’s dear friend, Samwise Gamgee: “He never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.” This single sentence shows that Tolkien was scheming toward the third book’s climax—but also it hints at where our characters will be when they reach it. Now, I’m a bit biased; if you know anything about me, you know I love Tolkien—as a personal inspiration and a writer. However, it’s clear to see that much of the reason Tolkien’s trilogy is so renowned is because he had a clear idea of where he wanted the characters to be at the story’s conclusion.
Mystery author Agatha Christie is another writer who is an excellent example for knowing the ending at the beginning. I’m currently neck deep into a Hercule Poirot collection, and with every story I’m impressed by her ability to weave together impeccable plots with inevitable conclusions. And that’s what she, along with all great writers, practices well: the inevitability of the ending. When a reader reaches the end of a story, as I’m sure I’ve said before on this blog, he or she must feel a sense of inevitability, a sense that, even if they never saw it coming, it couldn’t have ever gone a different way. But how does one achieve that? We can’t all have the magnificent little grey cells of Hercule Poirot!
In my own writing, I do an in-depth outline (most of the time) of all my novels, and this saves some time in the editing and rewriting phase and really helps me stay the course with my characters. I really recommend this step, even though it’s almost as bad as the editing phase itself… If you’re working on short stories, though, an in-depth outline might not be what you need. I tend to let my short stories write themselves, so to speak—let the world grow on its own from the first sentence. This technique has its drawbacks, including a heavier rewrite cycle, but it also lets the protagonist arrive a natural conclusion. A lot of the times I’ll have to make changes and tweak plot to match this ending, if it’s one I think is worth adjusting the story for, and this can lead to a beautifully relatable arch for the reader. In the end, find what works for you, but always keep that last sentence in mind.
“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I hope everyone had a lovely Easter Weekend and a great week to follow! If you missed it, in last week’s blog post I shared the first chapter from Mordecai Episode One: Bloodthirsty. You can give it a read and then pick up your own copy of the full book here. Episode Two: Imprisoned is finished and is in the editing room now, so it’s a good time to jump aboard.
For more writing tips, you can check out my last addition to the series here: In Writing: The Art of Twisting the Plot.
Don’t forget to like, follow, share, and have a great weekend! See you next week with something new.
Weekly Writing Prompt:
The sun rose once again over the valley, but I remained sat upon my rock, alone…