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Darby Pops Off: “The Secret to Great Endings” by Shaene Siders

Written by Kristine Chester | 5 Comments | Published on August 12, 2016
The content that follows was originally published on the Darby Pop Publishing website at http://www.darbypop.com/darby-pops-offs/darby-pops-off-the-secret-to-great-endings-by-shaene-siders/

Endings are hard. Ask anyone who has ever written a story. From wrapping up a novel, to a comic book, to a movie script, tying everything in a neat little bow is a skill that requires practice. The thing is, I hear there’s a secret. A secret that our guest for today, Shaene Siders, has agreed to share with us.

If you have a thought on the topic of the week, please join in the discussion on Facebook (facebook.com/DarbyPopPublishing), Twitter (@DarbyPopComics), or in the comments section below. Tell us about some of your favorite story endings.

Until next time,


Watching TV is actually part of my job.  I’m a writer, and for a recent writing gig, I watched current episodes of a show to make sure my episode would be a good fit.  But the fit was too good.  When I turned in the outline, the producers asked me to change the ending because too many episodes had ended similarly.  I needed something different, but still “great.”

So what makes a great ending?

You might think, “Well, there’s no one thing that makes an ending great.  It depends on the story.”  But, as I thought about it, I discovered that’s not quite true.  In my opinion, there is an actual quality all great endings share.

But, before I tell you the secret, think of your absolute favorite ending to a book, comic, movie, video game, or TV show (or all five), so you can test my theory.

Okay, are you ready for the secret formula?  Here it is:  All great endings evoke strong emotion.

That’s it.  All great endings evoke strong emotion.  Sounds simple, right?  But it’s the execution that’s the hard part.  If you try too hard to evoke emotion instead of generating it organically, the story can ring false and alienate your audience.  Evoking emotion often involves careful setup (aka “laying pipe”) long before the conclusion.  Also, it typically requires that the audience truly care about your characters and what happens to them.  And just evoking emotion won’t make your ending automatically satisfying.  Pissing an audience off because the ending is a cheat or nonsensical might create strong emotions, but that doesn’t mean your ending is actually any good.

Still, in my opinion, you need to evoke strong emotion if you want any chance of writing a great ending.

So, what are your favorite endings, and what emotions did they evoke in you?

And, most importantly, how should I end this posting?

About the Author

Shaene Siders is a weapons-grade writer who specializes in action and science fiction.  You can follow her at http://www.DragonUnderGlass.com, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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Melody says:

BACK TO THE FUTURE! There’s a magnificent race to the end when Marty and Doc are trying to get to the clock and harness the lightning, and they barely beat one obstacle after another and finally do it. The audience enjoys a great feeling of victory from their well-earned moment of success. But then it’s topped when Marty (and we) see that his meddling in past events has resulted in an alternate and better present for his family. It’s a fantastic ending and one of my favorites. Worthy of loud cheers every time I see it. Since we saw Marty’s father suffering injustice as an adult and as a teen, this ending is tremendously emotionally satisfying.

Geoff Nelson says:

Good point, well taken. The worst endings are the ones that feel like a let-down, even worse than a WTF? ending. Incidentally, sound editing can play a part in this. The jarring endings of \”An American Werewolf in London\” and \”Goon\” were distressing because a moment of pathos was interrupted with a jarringly inappropriate upbeat song. In Werewolf, that might have been part of the joke, but Goon was an oddly touching film and the end moment was kind of wrecked by the sound editor. Tone matters.

Voice of Reason says:

“The Empire Strikes Back” – A bitter sweet ending. Our heroes lost the battle, but lived to fight another day. It was one of the first time’s I’d even seen a movie without a happy ending, and I still loved it. Actually I loved it even more, because it showed that the good guys don’t always win, but it doesn’t mean you give up.

Jimbo says:

If you must “evoke great emotion” for a great ending… Then, the next question becomes:

“How do you evoke great emotion?”

1) Set up a character, either good or bad morally, whose goals you can relate to (“care” about).
2) through action and emotional drama, demonstrate their struggle to fail.
3) Then, as failure leads to realization – During a final struggle, the new perspective on their struggle allows them to succeed!

And, with careful editing, the audience has experienced their triumph along with them, scene by scene.

Makes so much sense. I’ll be thinking about this next time I write.

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