Writing The End
Greetings once again. While I’m currently enjoying the newness of my new book, a part of my mind also knows how much closer I am to completing my trilogy. At the same time, Marvel Comics made a big announcement that it will bringing the current Marvel Universe to an ‘end’ (but given comics, this could mean many other things). Regardless, these events both led to write today’s blog on one of the hardest things for any writer to create- the end. The ending has been described as the best and the worst part of a story for any writer, since it means both the end of a project and the start of a new one. But before anything can be started, an ending has to be done with proper skill.
The Good Ending
Ideally, an ending will accomplish certain goals. It will bring the story to an end in a satisfying way, so that readers feel a sense of completion. It also has to feel like the end of a journey. Characters that began an arc must complete it, to mark the end of the journey they have over come. They can do this by gaining confidence, overcoming an enemy, or accomplishing a goal despite hardships and setback. Oftentimes, this progression is the end by itself. However, goals can also be outside the character- saving the world, destroying evil, etc. Regardless of the method, the end must always come in a way that feels true. An ending such as a dues ex machina (or the ‘magic ending’ where everything is solved by luck or a sudden plot device) fails in this because it negates any progress the characters have made, or any real depth the story’s progress has made.
The Bad Ending
A good ending may seem like a basic, easy thing for a writer to want to accomplish, but it is not always so. Many obstacles can block the way, such as the dues ex machina. However, writers can also be challenged by other factors. One of the most common is simply not knowing when to end. Many of us can think of a series that started well, but suffered because it went on long after its premise was exhausted. In fact, one of the most famous TV ‘rules’ is the Fawlty Towers rule, named after the classic British series, which only lasted twelve episodes to avoid creative burnout. Other series, like Discworld, avoid this problem by focusing on a universe rather then characters, which allows for much more varied stories.
Getting back to comics, there is also the fear of ending prematurely, or a reboot. DC Comics’s New 52 relaunch, in which a new continuity was established, angered many fans who didn’t want to see an end to the current incarnations of their favorite stories and characters. Worse still, the new continuity altered many classic characters and origins while exemplifying the worst kind of reboot- one done without complete planning behind it, which eventually cost DC the sales it gained over Marvel. And finally, there is one last type of bad ending to mention- the fanservice ending, which is designed largely to please a division of the fanbase over telling a complete ending. For this, I point to the recent Legend of Korra finale, which ended in an ambiguous suggestion of two characters having a homosexual relationship (a popular fan belief) instead of having an ending with greater meaning to the show’s overall message. This also can be constructed as the writers trying to add last minute depth to underdeveloped character relationships and hoping for a controversial ending to make the show seem more important then it was.
In simplicity, a good ending has to satisfy, bring characters and goals to an end, and feel final. Writers of all types need to recognize the need to bring their stories to a satisfying conclusion, and when it needs to happen. For one final example, J.R.R. Tolkien did actually consider a sequel to Lord of the Rings. However, after writing only one chapter, Tolkien stopped, realizing that there was simply nothing left to say. That, is an impulse that all writers need to recognize, because even the deepest well can run dry.