October 28th, 2015

Burp

Writing Excuses 10.43: Q&A on Endings, with Delia Sherman

Writing Excuses 10.43: Q&A on Endings, with Delia Sherman

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2015/10/25/writing-excuses-10-43-qa-on-endings-with-delia-sherman/

Q&A summary:
Q: Why do so many short stories end on a tragic note compared to novels? Is tragic quote unquote easier?
A: Laziness. It's easy to get your characters into a fix and leave them there. Getting them out and solving it is harder. Not fulfilling your promises is not an artistic choice. Short stories are good at single issue cautionary tales ending in disaster. True tragic endings are difficult.
Q: How do you prevent an ending from being predictable or boring?
A: Surprise them with intensity of feeling. Play the emotional arc against the plot arc.
Q: How do you write a standalone ending with sequel potential?
A: Make the world bigger than the story, give the character more to care about than just this plot.
Q: [What are the] best ways to avoid info dump endings?
A: Make sure you and the reader are interested in all the aspects. Just cut the info dump.
Q: When writing a series, what's the most important aspect to consider in ending the first novel? Are there differences between ending the first novel in a series and ending other novels in the series?
A: Yes. When you write the ending of the first book, you don't know if you are going to write more endings. In later books, you've got more endings under your belt. You also know the overarching mega-plot. The first book needs to have a solid ending.
Q: How do you know what questions to leave unanswered in an ending?
A: Don't save too much for the sequel. Tie things up in a broken bow. Answering good, deep questions in your first book suggest more questions for later. Answer the questions that contribute to the emotional effect you want the reader to experience, don't answer the other ones. Use beta readers to decide which is which.
Q: How often do you test or rewrite the last line? How can you make sure your ending is working?
A: Leave them with an image or a phrase. A line of dialogue or short exchange can tie up a character driven emotional plot after you tie up the action plot. Look for emotional resonances and beats, then echo them. Echoing and mirroring the first line works, too. The first line is the sales pitch to get the reader to read the rest of the book. The last line needs to be pleasing and awesome to match that. Make the last line a dramatic encapsulation of a major theme.
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[Brandon] Yeah, yeah. We have to end. We are out of time. I really want to thank Delia for joining us. Thank you so much.
[Howard] Thank you, Delia.
[Whoo! Applause]
[Delia] Thank you.
[Brandon] I want to thank our audience, who just clapped, so I won't make you do it again. I am going to assign you homework. But it's easy homework. This time I want you to take a break. If you've been following along and working on your story, you've now been doing this for 10 months. You have finished, we hope, something incredible, something that you are very proud of. It's time to rest. This is actually something that I like to do whenever I finish a book. Because we are going to go to revision next week. It's often very good to take a break between finishing a story and digging into the revisions. In fact, you may want to take the next few episodes, stick them somewhere...
[Laughter]
[Brandon] And give yourself a break and write something in between. Then come back and listen to those episodes when you're ready to do your revision.
[Dan] Brandon, where should they stick those episodes?
[Laughter]
[Brandon] They should stick those episodes on the shelf, next to all of their nice people who don't make euphemisms.
[Mary] It wasn't me this time!
[Howard] Oh, dear.
[Brandon] And they should come back and listen to them later. All right. This has been...
[Dan] Does the sun shine on that shelf, Brandon?
[Laughter]
[Brandon] We gotta end fast.
[Mary] I don't know, that's... Oh. I'll stop.
[Laughter]
[Brandon] For those of you not benefiting from the video feed, I am proceeding to smash Mary on the head with my clipboard.
[Mary] Ah... Ee... You started it.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses of the Caribbean. You're out of excuses, now go take a break.
[Applause]
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