Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The End=The Choice

I left you with a question Monday. How is playing a game of golf like writing a book? Like the game of golf, you need to keep your story on "course" and end the game with a hole-in-one for the climatic scene. Ba-da-da.

And speaking of endings that's what we're going to talk about today.

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the beginning of a book and how to start your story with change that comes into your character’s life. Last week was about the middle of your story and how your character needs to climb the story mountain. So this week we'll focus on the end of your story, the climatic scene and what needs to take place.

Your protagonist has been doing her/his best throughout your story sometimes chasing red-herrings, but always trying to stay on course, and fighting to find the solution to the problem that threatens her happiness. The climatic scene then has to present your protagonist with a choice.

Yes, there have been many choices made all through the story, but this choice is THE CHOICE. This choice tests your character’s soul. This choice is the biggest deal of the entire book, the choice that will make or break your story.

Your character has to make a decision that shows her true SELF not only to the other characters in the book, but to those faithful readers who have followed your protagonist through hundreds of pages, read every chance they had, and lost sleep worried for her. You owe them. So what about this choice? Let’s break it down.

The choice is:
  • Pivotal to the story
  • Demands action
  • Once made cannot be undone
All through your story your protagonist has been waging a war against danger and now the climax needs to deliver. The battle is nearly over and your hero must do the ultimate task to win. Will she be steadfast holding to truths she reveres as sacred or will she fold? It’s up to you.

Don’t be afraid to let your character suffer just before this final decision. Remember the saying--it’s always darkest before the dawn--it applies here. This is also a great place to balance emotion with action. Help your reader feel your character's pain. This moment should also be the big reveal, where all the secret facts are put before your character. So there’s going to be a lot of feeling.

A word of warning: the climatic scene and how your character acts must be believable and logical. Make sure you’ve laid the foundation so that the climax gives the reader fulfillment.

If you’re writing a series you don’t have to fulfill all the expectations of your reader. Think of the Harry Potter series. At the end of book one “he who must not be named” was still at large, but do give your reader a wind down.

The end should also have a quick wrap up. All issues have been resolved and everyone lives “happily-ever after.” This should be short, sweet and fulfilling.

Now, not all stories have a “happy-ever-after”. I remember reading a book where the ending was very sad. Some readers like that. Some authors like that, too. And there’s nothing wrong with it. You have to decide what kind of story you want to be known for and go for it. Just remember that with everything you write you’re branding your name. Branding your name…a good subject to talk about next week.

So I’ve told you what I thought about the climax, what do you think? What else is needed in the climatic scene of a book?


  1. Kathi, I love how you have laid out the climax for the book. Love it! When I started the wip I am currently working on, I wrote the ending first. This has helped me build the story through the middle. But I see now that I have one last thing to do to make the ending better. Excellent post! Thanks. =)

  2. I'm glad you liked it, Carolyn. I've never written the ending first. Very intriguing thought. I usually have the begining and ending in mind when I start a new book.
    Thanks for stopping by. :0)

  3. Good tips as usual Kathi! I like a climax that tests the MC's courage, loyalty & heart. Good stuff :)

  4. I think the choice would be the hardest part because it is the turning point in the story.

  5. Elizabeth, definitely the choice is the hardest part, for both the writer and the character. I'm always glad when the decision is made. ;)

  6. Oh, choice! Divine, freeing choice! I have such a passion for decision (and yet I can never pick a restaurant) and this last great choice in a novel is so important to me. You're right. It makes or breaks a story.

  7. The only thing I would add is that the ending needs to be satisfying for the story. Sometimes that means happy ever after, sometimes not. A good example of this is the ending for Nelson DeMille's NIGHT FALL. It's the only ending that fit the story. Any other would've been a cop out.

  8. Laura, I find it much easier to make a choice for my characters than I do for myself. Isn't that the way? Thanks for stopping by. :)

  9. Carol, now I'm really curious about DeMille's book. I'll have to read it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  10. Very well written, Kathi. I completely agree with you. I'm one of those readers/writers who actually enjoys a sad ending... The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. That one sure made me cry.

    Endings are hard. I never get them right the first time.

  11. Mary, many people like sad endings. You're not alone. Endings are hard. I think for me, it's because I'm reluctant to give up my characters by ending the book. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Fabulous post. Yes, the choice is pivotal to the climax - wonder why I never thought of that before, though!

    ~ Rayna

  13. Rayna, I'm glad you liked this post. I hope it helped. Thanks for stopping by.



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