Tying It All Together – Finding Satisfaction in Your Ending
This is the part pantsers love doing but rarely know they have to follow up on. You know what we call fuses that aren’t followed up on? Loose threads.
For Mixon, fuses are plot threads that are lit and burn through the story. But the writer must be careful:
When you pants loose threads without knowing they’re supposed to be fuses, you get to the end of your novel. . .and it doesn’t end in all the fuses coming together to make an almighty explosion, but in you, personally, getting bored. Sadly, the writer is the last person who ever gets bored. Guess what that means?That’s right. All your readers have already died of boredom and turned up their toes long, long before you finally meandered into your ad-hoc, how-can-I-get-out-of-this? WTF-ever ending.
That’s not a CLIMAX. That’s just a fizzle…
…spend some lengthy, intense, brain-breaking hours figuring out exactly how all those wild ideas can come together in the most thrilling, wonderful CLIMAX ever, the reason your legions of future fans are going to love this novel and read it again and again and again.
There’s the rub. Bringing it all together is the hardest part. It’s those brain-breaking hours that make it all worthwhile, that provide not only satisfaction for your readers, but for you, the writer.
Robert McKee calls the Climax “far and away the most difficult scene to create: It’s the soul of the telling. If it doesn’t work, the story doesn’t work.”
I’m in the third act of my third draft. I like the overall story for the first time and I want to get the ending right (and written). While washing dishes the other night a thought came to me, an Ah Hah! moment that helped tighten the weave of the story and bring more of those fuses together.
I doubt there’s one correct way of approaching the ending of a novel, but it would seem that time helps me the most. Taking time to play out several scenarios, time to make mistakes and time to let ideas percolate.
Recently read books that came to satisfying conclusions (for me) include The Windup Girl, The Anubis Gates, Finch and Anathem. Two novels that left me flat are The Difference Engine (ending seemed to be more entropic than anything) and Mainspring (deus ex machina, although that may have been the point. Lack of foreshadowing made it seem out of the blue).
Robert McKee again:
…if anything will draw blood from your forehead, it’s creation the climax of the last act–the pinnacle and concentration of all meaning and emotion, the fulfillment for which all else is preparation, the decisive center of audience satisfaction. If this scene fails, the story fails. If you fail to make the poetic leap to a brilliant culminating climax, all previous scenes, characters, dialogue, and description become an elaborate typing exercise.
And there it is.
What difficulties have you encountered while bringing your novel to a satisfying close? What tools helped you along the way?