Finding the end of the story.

Kitty, arrives at the class with three pages of writing.  She’s created a feisty main character with an interesting dilemma.  ‘I know exactly how it will end,’ says Kitty.  ‘I’ve just got to work out the bit in the middle.’

‘So,’ I say, ‘you’ll finish it for next session.’

Kitty fiddles with the pages of her notebook and looks away.  ‘Maybe not,’ she says.

street artBeneath her fingers are three other projects that she has started with great energy and abandoned at the half-way point.

‘Could it be,’ I suggest, ‘that you’re thinking too far ahead each time?’

I have two problems in pre-plotting endings.  The first is that my character might not decide to go in the direction I need them to, and so I am continually placing them in situations that haven’t evolved naturally.  The second is that because I’ve already worked the ending out there’s no sense of excitement about my writing.

This does not mean that planning is wrong.  It works for a lot of writers.  There are plenty of planning styles for big projects, ranging from the paper-based versions, such as postcards pinned to a wall or shuffled into order, to sophisticated computer programmes that can either lead you with prompts, or be used to store your ideas.

‘What if,’ I suggested to Kitty, ‘you write up that ending you’ve anticipated, and put it aside.  It can be your back-up, but also, because you’ve written it, you can let go of that idea.

Then you can pick up the story from the point it is at now and let your main character work out what happens next.  Don’t think about an ending.  Let it happen.’

‘I could try that,’ said Kitty.

I said, ‘What have you got to lose?’



*Photo by Leon Keer.

9 thoughts on “Finding the end of the story.

  1. Hi Cath it is a great relief to hear that other people’s characters don’t do what you want them to! I had a group I wanted to take to St Tropez but they went to Harrogate instead – at least they had tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms. Your idea of writing what you have planned as an ending and putting it aside is really useful. I now will try to do the same with a beginning I have written as I have taken far too long expounding the situation. I hope to use your technique to tighten up the story telling. Dropping the reader right in it by setting the beginning to one side (without actually losing completely any of the fantastic words and incredible word play I have sweated over thus far 😃. Perhaps I will use those words later in another project ……….). As you can tell, I hate editing my own words.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike, ah yes, the destruction of your darlings. It’s always our favourite phrases that have to go in the end. I suspect the fact that sweat was involved is usually a danger sign for over-writing.

    Chekov would probably have approved your plan. He is reputed to have told someone who asked for advice to cut the first three pages of their story, and that was sight-unseen.

    I’m a big advocate of holding onto previous drafts. It can get bulky, but it’s so much better being able to go back to the original that to try and recreate it. Good luck with the stories…Harrogate and St Tropez, now there’s a contrast.


  3. Good advice Cathum – I’m one who is prone to have a beginning and an ending but can never make the middle “fit.” I’ll take your advice, put the written ending on one side and pick up where the beginning left off. I might even resuscitate one of the three start-blank-finish novels that lie discarded in a drawer somewhere. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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