“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

If Only (Rule 7)

Here is the next segment in the blogging challenge in which I am taking part, where we consider the Rules of Storytelling as listed by Pixar writer Emma Coats. That list can be found here.

Rule 7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

My favorite books are the ones where I'm surprised by the ending. And if it's well written, when I get to that surprise ending I'm able to think back and recognize all the clues that were in place leading up to that fantastic finale. That's great writing.

Think of your story like a relationship. We've all had a few. Now think of the one that ended badly. One of the worst feelings in the early weeks after that breakup is, "I've wasted time. I would have done so many things differently. It all would have been so much better if I'd only known."

Boom. Your story is your opportunity to know the outcome ahead of time and make sure your characters act accordingly. And if you've got a character who's meant to learn the same as you did, there's still an opportunity for you to make it all happen the way you wish it would have. The ending can at least be fair! Or fitting. You are the mastermind. Make things as they should be.

But if you don't know how it's meant to end, your characters will be bumbling idiots just like you were in that ill-fated relationship. The one that makes you cringe. The one you hope no one ever brings up. The one that forces the need for a phrase like, "What was I thinking?"

So, painful as it might be, force yourself to ask what you have in store for your characters. Since nothing else has happened yet, make it great. Make it fantastic. It can be anything! Keep it in your heart, or write it down somewhere. Whatever you prefer. And then...fill in the rest. Your characters will thank you.

Please check out what the other bloggers are saying about Rule #7!


  1. I agree completely! With a great ending already established, it's easier to to create insane situations to bring them to that conclusion!

  2. You always have such insightful thoughts :)