I’ve been researching serialization, the idea of taking a story and cutting it into episodes released in sequence instead of one giant book. This idea appeals to me, at least for my large project that may be too big to be a first book. While I haven’t decided on a course of action, the research has gotten me thinking about how my stories should end.
This is a rather new concentration for me, as I can start a story at the drop of a hat, but I have only finished one, and that one is the start of a series. For only one of my projects, a fantasy trilogy, have I outlined the story from beginning to end, and that one is proceeding at a nice pace. The rest I haven’t figured out an ending to.
So, I have spent some time thinking about my projects and how they might end.
For many projects, the answer is ‘I don’t know’. I have an idea or a start, but no real story. But for a couple of the projects, this exercise has paid great rewards.
For example, take the large book I mentioned earlier. I have many stories I want to tell in that world, but not all of them revolve around the main character. So I asked myself ‘What if I limited myself to five or six books centering on her?’ I always had an idea of how I would remover her from the story if I had to, so I made that the ending to her story.
The result on the story is favorable. By having an end in mind, I can plan out the events and their consequences, and begin building towards the decisions that end her saga. (Spoiler: she doesn’t die, and will still be a character in other stories set in that world). The ending also acts as a goal: instead of feeling pressured to write as many stories as I can, I have a finish line I need to get to. The difference is surprisingly important.
Another example is a Sci-Fi story I recently started. The main character has been asked to go and stop a war from starting, a task made so difficult by the forces arrayed against him that it would take at least two books, if not more, to tell. In addition, the goal of stopping a war means that the conditions currently exist for a war to occur, and that the character must keep a war from starting long enough for the situation to change. As I contemplated the ending, I had to decide how to finish the story, and chose to give the story a Five-year arc. However many books it’ll take, the character now has a deadline.
The lesson I’ve learned from this? Knowing how to end your story is as important as how you start it, especially for projects that are expected to run over several books. It provides a goal, some guidelines for how the story can and should progress. Something I really need to think about when working on my projects.
Have a nice day, and write on!