Like most people, I’m hooked on the movie Frozen - the action, the suspense, the singing, the characters, the humor – I love it, all of it. BUT…there was a period during the movie where I grew worried. I panicked, actually, when I heard, “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. A true love’s kiss, perhaps.” All I could think was , Oh no, here we go again. In my mind, I pleaded with Disney, please don’t tell me that like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Enchanted this movie ends with the prince saving the princess with (yet another) true love’s kiss. That would have been (yawn) predictable, a been-there-done-that ending that would have ruined an otherwise wonderful, beautiful, magical movie for me and many others (I assume).
Of course that’s not how it ends (sorry, if I spoiled that for you). Disney, is smarter than that, creating an ending that redefines (their) typical true love and I, as a movie-goer, love it and Disney for that. As writers, we owe our readers the same, we owe them a magical ending….
An ending that makes the reader say wow! Whether it’s a heartfelt wow, a giggly wow or a surprising wow - a wow, just the same.
Endings act like the finishing touch to a fabulous meal, the delectable dessert, the one that leaves you smiling long after you've left the dinner table. Not too sweet, not a bit bitter, and definitely not disconnected.
Imagine dining at the most exquisite of restaurants, savoring lobster served on a bed of the lightest, fluffiest rice, infused with herbs, along with asparagus, grilled to perfection, sprinkled with butter and sea salt. Yum!
You've finished your meal and imagine what delectable culinary delight could be awaiting you. You lick your lips, you sniff the air, you see...
a plate of Oreos??? How can that be? Disconnect.
They just don’t go together. And although the Oreos weren't expected (which is usually a good thing), they were too much of a surprise - a shocker - not a good way to end the meal. Your ending should be delightfully unexpected, not shockingly unexpected.
So how do we as writers achieve that delightfully unexpected ending?
toy with twist...
make it magical!
I love clever endings. Not simply the happily ever after endings and certainly not “getting your message across” endings. Endings that are much more than that… endings that are the elegant ribbon, adorning the gift, wrapping the present, so tightly, beautifully, and perfectly that we pause, mesmerized by its beauty. Endings that are fabulous finishing touches. I'll share two that I admire...
Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller has a fabulous ending that loops back to the beginning. Spoiler Alert
The squash that Sophie choses at the local farmer’s market becomes Sophie’s best friend when she decides that it’s is “just the right size to hold in her arms. Just the right size to bounce on her knee. Just the right size to love.” Sophie and Bernice, do everything together until one day when Bernice looks blotchy. After the man at the farmer’s market tells Sophie that fresh air, good clean dirt and a little love will keep a squash healthy, she buries Bernice in the yard. Later then spring when the Sophie spots a sprout, she spend times with it. Soon the spout grows two tiny squash, Bonnie and Baxter, who are “just the right size for Sophie to hold in her arms and bounce on her knee. Just the right size to love.” Great loop back to the beginning!
I’m also intrigued by the stories with endings that lead the reader into thinking about a new situation, similar in premise, yet different somehow.
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos has a fabulous ending, leading the reader elsewhere in the end. Spoiler Alert
The story starts out with the birth of Baby Billy, sweet lovable Billy, who has a mustache? Yes, a mustache. But, is it bad guy mustache, you know the ones that curl up on the ends and scream sinister, or a good guy mustache, the exotic ones that beckon adventure and shout skill and mastery?
The story is filled with humor and puns and darling illustrations. And in the end after Bill does his time behind bars, it seems like the neighborhood will live happily ever after until… the neighbor baby comes to play. The baby with a beard! Great lead to a bearded baby story!
I believe that the ability to create great endings comes from creativity cultivated by reading great endings, lots and lots of clever, brilliant wonderful, marvelous, impressive endings. If you're looking for some inspiration, go to the library or the store and borrow or buy books and read, read, read and study fabulous finishes.
I ask you…how will you end your story? Loop or lead or ???
However you decide to end your story, make it brilliant and redefine your act of true love!
Guest posted for Mandy by Dawn Young, Children’s Book Academy graduate (PB course) and participant in the From Storyteller to Exquisite Writer: The Pleasures and Craft of Poetic Techniques course.
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