01 August 2013

What makes a good story ending?

from Yahoo! Answers--

What makes a good ending?

When watching some films or reading some books, I find that while the beginning and middle parts can be amazing, the ending can sometimes disappoint. Are there essential parts to every ending that make it a good one? If so, what would you say they are?

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters

The mode of ending you choose has mostly to do with the story you wrote. For a comedy, the ending must satisfy the readers' common sensibility (the word comedy being based not on humour but in the word common, such as in communion, community, etc.). Give the people what they expect-- the bad guys go to prison, the lovers get married.

For a tragedy, the one we have come to like most must die or suffer, from some fault of his own but one which we would prefer to forgive. Jack Sparrow at the end of the 2nd 'Pirates' movie is sort of like this. Shakespeare's tragic heroes, such as Lear, are like this. After all his growth of character, Lear still dies. This makes us sad.

In gothics, the main message is amoral or naturalistic (naturalism being an offshoot of the gothic). Fate, chance, luck, or circumstances beyond control determine the outcome.  Lord Of The Flies is like this. See Nicholas Sparks' Message In A Bottle for a really egregious example of a pointless ending-- not anything that can be expected, only random. (Really any Nicholas Sparks ending is like this, very Hemingwayesque. --ick.) This tends to frustrate readers and audiences (like me) who want some sense of order or righteousness at the end.

Chief amongst the appeal of an ending should be some element of surprise. In a comedy, for which the ending is a foregone conclusion throughout the whole story, you can still provide something interesting, such as two secondary characters getting married as well (A Midsummer Night's Dream), or the couple coming into a fortune simply for being just such good people, when they would have been satisfied just to have each other (Our Mutual Friend). In a tragedy, you can provide some glimmer of hope in that the Horatio who will take over the kingdom gets a lovely bride or an added accolade into the bargain.

In a gothic, there isn't much hope for surprise-- the ending itself is a surprise, typically unfulfilling-- the hero doesn't win by his own devices but is saved by a random passing ship or because the rope holding the villain breaks or because an animal comes and eats his enemies. It means nothing-- there is no 'message'. These are the ones you probably hate the most.

I do not mention cliffhangers between instalments of a series because they're not really endings. There is a whole set of other rules for a good cliffhanger.

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