Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Endings, Etc.

I'll admit, I'm not great whiz at writing endings. I don't really know what should go there. I have a tendency to what to write an epilogue, or wrap everything up in a neat little bow. After all I like reading books where everything is wrapped up. I hate not knowing what happens to everyone after the whole shebang has ended. I blame John Irving. I read "The World According to Garp" when I was a teenager and I've been hooked on having everything wrapped up since then.

So, while I'm not really sure how a story should end, I do know how one shouldn't end.

Please, for the sake of everything that's human within you... Don't end your story by killing off one of the main characters.

Unless you have a very very very good reason, you're going to piss off the end user of your product (i.e. your readers, your viewers... you know... the people who ultimately fund your work).

Going back to Garp. If you haven't read it, the following is a major plot spoiler...

Everyone dies in the end. Okay so maybe not a plot spoiler. We're all going to die someday, right? What Irving does is take each character's life to its logical end, and he had a very good reason for doing so. It was necessary for the story. (Please understand, Irving had a horrible sense of life and a very negative view of the world. Maybe he still does... I don't know. So I'm not saying Irving is the best guy to take life lessons from. He was/is however an excellent writer.)

The other night while I was sitting on the couch crocheting, my husband was flipping through the channels looking for something intelligent on TV. What he found was a movie called "Pay It Forward". If you haven't seen this movie, I'm going to ruin it for you, so stop reading now.

The premise was pretty good. A kid gets an assignment to figure out something he can do to change the world. So he decides he's going to start a chain of good deeds. His idea is to help out 3 people, and then each of those three people helps three people and so on. In the end, he helps some people and his own life is better because of it. Everything is going great. His Mom quit drinking, found herself a good man, and everyone is happy... Until he tries to help out one more person, and he gets stabbed in the process. And he dies. Bingo bango bongo. Dead.

So much for happy. So much for good. Umm... Hurray for futility? Yippee for martyrdom??

Don't do this to people. Don't perpetuate the myth life is futile. Don't perpetuate the idea that death without purpose is somehow noble. The only noble martyrs in history didn't set out to be martyrs. They didn't want to die. And in fiction, you don't have to kill your characters unless you are trying to make a point.

And going back to my posts on philosophy, think about what you're saying and why you're saying it. Think:

"Is this the point I really want to make?"


Janimé said...

Unfortunately, I think that is exactly the point some people are trying to make. And if it's not the "life is futile" thing, it's the "the good have to die young" thing.

Another one to stay WAY away from: Gallipoli. Spoiler... That one totally sets you up for one kind of ending, kills the main character off in a non-inspiring way, and then the credits roll. I HATE movies/stories like that.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I don't doubt it. It's a sad strange little world we're living in. =o(

I've seen too many movies like that, unfortunately. I've never seen Gallipoli, though. And I'll do my damnest to never write a story that way. Of course, in order for me to write a story like that, I'll have to be nuts. In which case, my hubby has instructions to have me committed.

liz fenwick said...

These then the books that my book club seems to think will be best and I am left feeling low. I want/need some sort of hope at the end of a book- otherwise I really don't want to read it. I can just read the news instead!