Last week, Christine Allen-Riley inspired me to think about what makes for a satisfying ending. As a child of the late 80's - early 90's, the endings that stick with me the most are from, of course, 80's movies!!! Woohoo! But seriously, there are two kinds of endings that really inspire me as a writer and storyteller, both of which make me think of two films in particular.
The first is a "Closure" ending. I love these. This is when you get a chance to see all of the characters you've fallen in love with one more time before the story is complete. This ending brings the gang back together so that we can reflect on all of the adventures they've had and all of the ways in which they've grown. It's not an easy thing to do — you need to create a scene or setting where the characters can be in one place at the same time for this to happen.
A good example of "Closure" is how the Star Wars movies end. There is a template from the original that is followed in the following five films — we always end with a final scene of the gang all together. Everyone gets their last hurrah — R2 gets to beep and Chewbacca gets to roar, even Han Solo gets one last smirk! All done without one word of dialogue.
The second kind of ending I really love isn't an ending at all, but a "Beginning". This is when your characters are launched into a new adventure (or the possibility of one) in their final scene. It can be a complete surprise, or something that builds off of their growth during the story that has just been told. Either way, this type of ending does two things:
- It gives your reader a final burst of tension and energy (rather than a slow winding down)
- It makes them feel like these characters have lives and adventures beyond the pages that they're reading
A good example of "Beginning" is the ending of the original Back to the Future. Just when you think everything is wrapped up and everyone is happy (the "Closure" ending), Doc Brown shows up in a panic, sifting through Marty's garbage ("I need fuel!!!") and dropping hints about the adventure to come ("Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads!"). Sequels weren't originally planned for Back to the Future, so this wasn't meant to be a set up. It was simply an amazing way to end a story!
(PS: this scene is actually taken from Back to the Future Part II — it was such a good ending that they used it for the beginning of the sequel!)
What kind of endings inspire you?
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