Episode 92: This is the end.

On April 25, 2020, Kasie and Rex talked endings. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

This is the End


  • Have you ever found yourself just writing with no clear destination?
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Types of endings with strengths and weaknesses
close up of scrabble tiles forming the words the end
Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

In nonfiction projects, the writer typically creates a full outline with outcomes and expected direction. They’re organized.

It may surprise some of our fiction writers to know their projects can have the same approach. If you’re a panster, you sat down and started writing because the words were flowing through your brain to your fingers to your keyboard. If you’re a planner, you started with a comprehensive (or maybe a loose) outline of where you plan to go and how you’ll get there.

We’ve done episodes on endings before. Visit here and here to recap those. We talked about how you know it’s the end of the story — so Romeo killing Tybalt, the narrator realizes he’s actually Tyler Durden in Fight Club — these moments in the book that we were building to the entire time.

But did the writer write their way to the ending or did they plan to get there the entire time?

According to Andre Dubus:

When you “think something up” — You’re thinking through – I need this to happen so something else can happen. You’re controlling the material. Manipulating it.

When you imagine it — you free fall into it, let the characters do what they’re going to do, stop being intentional about something and let that something unfurl instead.

Segment 2

You can have some of the following types of endings, too (this link):

  • Resolved
  • Unresolved
  • Ambiguous
  • Unexpected
  • Tied Ending (The Night Circus) — bringing the elements back to the beginning, resolving the earliest conflict
  • Expanded ending (The Book Theif) — allowing the character Liesl to have a conversation with the narrator that’s been telling her story all this time

Segment 3

There are a few “hard and fast” rules that can help us imagine what the outcome may be (this link):

  • Closing the circle: remind readers of the beginning
  • The tie-back: connect to some element from earlier in the story
  • The time frame: a tick-tock structure with time advancing
  • The space frame: focus on place or geography. To end, you select the final destination.
  • The payoff: This does not require a “happy ending,” but a satisfying one, a reward for a journey concluded, a secret revealed, a mystery solved.
  • The epilogue: The story ends, but life goes on. An epilogue helps satisfy their curiosity.
  • Problem and solution: Frame the problem at the top and then offer readers possible solutions and resolutions.
  • The apt quote: Often overused, this technique remains a sturdy tool for ending stories. Some characters just speak in endings, capturing in their own words a neat summary or distillation of what has come before. In most cases, you can write it better than the source can say it. But not always.
  • Look to the future: Most stories are about things that have already happened. But what do people say will happen next? What is the likely consequence of this decision or those events?

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