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Drawing out an ending

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ScipioSmith, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

    I've just finished the second draught of the climactic chapter of the second part of my WIP. The antagonist dies and the city is saved. There's only an epilogue (or I might just call it chapter 20) to go, but there are a number of things that need to be wrapped up in that, and I'd like to know how long I can draw the ending out after the climax before it starts to feel too drawn out.

    At the moment there are nine things that I would like to have happen before the story ends, but I'm worried that reader patience won't last that long. How long can an ending go on for post-climax before it starts to grate? And does the relative importance of the characters contributing to the ending have any bearing (so, say, would you be more likely to tolerate the two leads parting, rather than a parting involving a protagonist and a secondary character?)
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    How much can you multitask? I'd assume these plots led into the main ending, so maybe some of them can be concluded as part of the main ending.

    If worst comes to worst, there's always how The Banned and the Banished handles it. Before and during the final battle, it sets up what each character will do if they survive. Then afterwards, it only follows one of the survivors, because he's the only one whose ending really needs to be explained after the fact.
    ScipioSmith and Russ like this.
  3. AndrewMelvin

    AndrewMelvin Scribe

    I feel that it's best to wrap things up fairly quickly after the climax. It's a dramatic high point, and I would like the reader to go away remembering that rather than a (relatively) quiet scenes, or scenes. I've used brisk epilogue a to suggest what my survivors will be doing next, and hopefully the drama and action of the finale stays fresh in the reader's mind as they finish those last few pages.
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  4. Vandor

    Vandor Dreamer

    This reminds me of watching The Return of the King with one of my friends. All of the climactic battles wrapped up, and he gets up to leave, but there was still at least a half-hour left in the movie, while the book had a whole other plot line that took place afterwards. Wheel of Time FINALLY ends with a Ragnarok-like affair, followed by a massive funeral and one of the characters leaving everything behind to go wander the earth.

    I think it comes down to how much are you trying to wrap up, for how many characters, and are these events relevant to plot arcs or character development. If so, you might be able to put hints into some of the preceding chapters that maybe the climax isn't the END. Just like after running a race, you go on a short jog afterwards to ease up the muscles. Maybe do the same with your story. Ease the audience out and let them get some closure instead of coming to a dead halt with a bunch of, "Oh and so-and-so did this and this..." tacked on.
    ScipioSmith likes this.
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

    My taste is very much like AM's, let's get it done after the climax. I think you risk losing your readers interest trying to do nine things after the major plot is wrapped.

    The end of a book is very important. You want to leave them wanting more, not less.
    ScipioSmith likes this.
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I have no problem defending LOTR's ending or the value of a good epilogue. But the way you're asking the question raises some red flags with me that suggest you might have different problems than the ones you're worried about.

    What are you still wrapping up in an epilogue? Usually you wrap up your plotlines right before the climax, while the epilogue is about closure and good byes. This is a point for "ohh good, after all that they get to go home" and "years later they had a kid who was just like them."

    Unless you're setting up a sequel - the dragon still lives! - there shouldn't be that much left to do.

    Then again the amount of stuff Rowling's revealed about the post-story life of her characters since the books finished almost became an encyclopedia, so there's that.
    ScipioSmith and Penpilot like this.
  7. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    Allow me to add a note in the other direction: while I love his work, Neal Stephenson's endings are abrupt bordering on the shocking. I'm still riding high from the finale when the book ends and I'm slammed back to earth. So I definitely think it's possibly to be too brusque in conclusion.

    I don't think there's a problem with resolving material after the grand finale, as long as that material resolves questions we've had before the finale. (Where Lord of the Rings goes wrong, for my money, is raising new conflict after the resolution of the major conflict.) For instance, you've resolved your major plot with an epic battle, but what about the will-they/won't-they romantic subplot between X and Y? We need to see that one resolved. Not to mention character Z's ongoing father issues, and the question of who, precisely, kept stealing character Q's lockpicks. Or whatever little personal arcs and subplots you have going on. Wrapping up all of these in the last chapter is, to my mind, what the last chapter is for! Each is a little satisfaction for a reader, and those just increase the overall satisfaction of the ending.

    Consider, of course, the possibility that you don't want to be too neat and tidy, because life isn't neat or tidy.
    ScipioSmith and BronzeOracle like this.
  8. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

    If it were mine, I would consider going back to the previous chapters and adding bits and pieces to help wrap it up, if at all possible.
    ScipioSmith likes this.
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    As the story unfolds you make promises to the reader. If you don't fulfill those promises they will feel cheated. IMHO that's why the ending of LOTR is long lots of promise to fulfill. One being what happens between Aragorn and Arwen. Etc. It's an example of a good wind down. An example of a poor one is the movie AI.

    Hollywood has this desire to end just after the climax, ending on a high point. But sometimes this is at the expense of a denouement which leaves the story feeling a bit unfinished.

    As for drawing out an ending, I'm not too sure about this. You should always try to quickly as possible but without rushing things. I mean once you reach the third act you should start looking to begin tying things up or setting things up to be tied up in an efficient manner.

    I agree that Neal Stephenson is one writer that tends to rush the endings.
    ScipioSmith likes this.
  10. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

    Perhaps I didn't phrase it too well. Some of this (more nine distinct scenes than nine plot points) is just a matter of goodbyes and establishing where people are going next, obviously they can't be done before the climax because nobody is going to leave before the fight is done. Other parts are sort of half wrap-up, half plot. Perhaps if I actually told you everything that might go in to the epilogue it will more sense:

    Miranda, the female lead, is brought before Princess Romana and they have the last of a series of conversations about power, morality, leadership and destiny that they've been having throughout the story. Romana also reveals what she intends to do with Miranda now that she's in charge.

    Romana then meets with two major supporting characters, Amy and Jason, to discuss what they want in reward for saving the capital; she doesn't want to be embarassed in public by having them refuse her generosity, so she wants to arrange everything first.

    Miranda talks to her lover, Octavia, about her recent misbehaviour. Knowing that she is being sent into genteel house arrest by Romana, Miranda tries to break off the relationship, but Octavia will have none of it.

    Michael, the male lead, wakes up (he fell unconscious from his injuries at the end of the last chapter), he greets his friends and reconciles with his little brother, who fought on the opposite side.

    Princess Romana ascends to the Imperial dignity, rewarding the heroes with honours and positions, pardoning some of the vanquished and punishing others. She pledges to lead the Empire into a new era, as she has spent the entire story saying she will.

    Miranda heals Lucilia, a sick young girl, and Michael takes her under his protection as he promised her dead sister that he would.

    Silwa, a god who has assisted the heroes, takes leave.

    Miranda is given a chance to escape Imperial custody by one of her friends, Ascanius, who offers to free her and take her with him into the northern wilds, where he hopes to make a new life. She declines, and he goes without her.

    Miranda departs for her new home, and bids farewell to Michael at the city gates. Brother and sister are reconciled, and wish each other well. As Miranda and Octavia leave, Michael and his companions speculate on the future, with Amy's hopes for a war seeming rather more likely that Jason's desire for peace.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    You could condense it a little but you're probably fine, at least so far as length is concerned. Plotwise it looks to be all aftermath, so that's probably fine too. I'd just be a little careful about putting up too neat a bow on the last philosophical discussion, and having the character wake up with too few consequences to the fall, but those are for other discussions.
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Reader patience is going to depend mostly on how much you've managed to make the reader care about all those things you need to wrap up.

    Personally, I have less patience for writers who DON'T wrap things up after the climax and go for a quick ending. Nothing annoys me more than having invested my time, attention and emotions for hours in an author's work to have them brush aside everything I care about except the Big Battle at the end and then end it with some kind of pithy line that doesn't address ANYTHING beyond the moment. Seriously, that's the easiest way to get me to pan you as an author.
  13. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Pacing questions never have an easy answer. On the one hand you need to know how much your book's style has convinced the reader to slow down (Tolkien took his time, but he made us expect that), and on the other just how important each point really is. Hard questions.

    But you do have a range of choices for each character. Reveal someone's issues and what they'll do next before the climax? combine several characters' resolution into one scene; some heroes only need a few heartfelt lines to sum up what we need to know. Or there's your author website, a perfect place to give fans extra scenes that didn't quite carry their weight in the book itself.

    Never think "one character= one wrapup scene." You want the fine-tuned option that works.

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