Earning Your Ending

Recently I watched an episode of a show—a show that I normally really enjoy—but this episode left me annoyed and frustrated and I couldn’t stop thinking (i.e., internally venting) about it. One of the characters did something very out of character, something that should have had serious repercussions, but that didn’t happen. It was all shrugged off as if it didn’t matter. I finally figured out that what bothered me wasn’t the happy ending (I love happy endings). It was the fact that the show didn’t earn that ending.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to earn your ending lately, pretty much ever since I watched the extras for Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast. (I love extras on movies, too) They were talking about how one of the first scenes they planned out was the very last scene, but they knew that they would have to work hard to earn that ending.

But what does it mean to earn your ending?

I think it means that the character has to struggle. Things go wrong, they fail, and they want to give up. But they don’t. They keep trying even though their pathway isn’t strewn with roses and chocolates. (And, really, who wants that? Roses have thorns that really hurt when you step on them and chocolate melts and makes a huge mess on the carpet.)

If things are too easy for your character, it’s much harder for readers to care about them. It’s also boring. Who wants to read about someone with a perfect and easy life?

So think about your ending. Where do you want your character to end up? Then work backwards from that point to put them through the opposite situation. If you know what your character loves more than anything, take it away from them. If you know what they fear most, force them to encounter it.

Yes, I am saying that you basically need to ruin their lives, but then you fix it for them and you’ll have earned it.

What do you think about earning your ending? Do you think it matters or not? Do you have any techniques or a process you use for earning your ending?_________________________________________

Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.