Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.
–Chuck from Supernatural
He’s not wrong.
I’ve been tweaking the end of a short story and trying to build an ending for the first draft of a novel, and I have to agree–endings are a raging pain in the ass.
The novel has meandered for almost one hundred thousand words now, and I didn’t exactly start it out with the most defined of intentions. It was a vague idea of what I wanted to do with a collection of characters–but with no inkling of how I wanted to get it done. I’m trying to tie up every loose end, but some of the things that I thought would be important when I started have fallen by the wayside. I’m leaving a lot of loose ends. Draft two will involve a lot of amputations of characters and events that never needed to have been included in the first place.
One thing the endings of the novel and the short story share is a need for both “to add up to something.” There were themes and concepts thrown in to the text, but the ending is where it should all come together. The ending is where my point is made or my effect is achieved. How do I make it add up to something without forcing something down the reader’s throat? How do I avoid making the ending too perfect or too sappy or too depressing? How do I make it mean something without meaning too much?
The only ending I’ve written lately that I haven’t struggled with is the ending for The New Devil…and that’s because it’s not really an ending. It’s a natural break in a series. It’s the conclusion of some events with an obvious setup for a sequel. In this scenario, loose ends aren’t supposed to be tied up. Holes can be patched in subsequent episodes. And it only needs to add up to a little bit because it’s not the grand finale of the entire story.
I never got far enough to write an ending to anything longer than a few pages until I was in college. I had scads of word documents floating around my computer that were partial novels and half-stories. Because endings are hard. But I guess, like anything, you can get better at it the more you try it.
Someday, I hope to write more endings like Breaking Bad and fewer endings like Dexter.