It’s the small things that matter when it comes to a story, we all know that. Every detail that together make a story what it is, the depth that reveals a character’s secret desires, or the interweaving messy relationships of the modern-day people. The complicated thought pattern of someone going through turmoil and loss, or the sky-high glee of someone at the top of their game. Whatever it is, the writer chooses every detail that is in the story, from the characters look, speech pattern, behaviour, dress sense, romantic life (or lack thereof), the food they enjoy and the music they listen to…even the type of apartment/house they live in. Basically, my point is, everything you read as a reader, every tinny-tiny detail in a story has been thoroughly thought out for their merit value by the author. Can you imagine the amount of detail they have to keep track of in the entire length of the book? Every darn single page!
Hmm, well, today, I’m not here to talk about how an author decides what to include in the entire breadth of the story – that’s like asking you to look at a needle in a hay-stack when I’ve just tossed another ton on top. Perhaps I will pursue that beast with a metal detector one day and write a post when I’m not too pressed for time.
Today…after all that…is about where to put the finalising ‘.’ to the end of the story. I led you earlier on a goose chase sort to speak, only to tell you in the end that I will be following up that thread some other day. Why did I do that? (Besides being partially sleep deprived and potentially looking at more than 72 of gruesome work)… Because…I wanted to keep a slight sense of suspense going.
Frank Herbert once said: “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
Funny I should quote Herbert, since my first radio interview as an ‘author’ was on some street with the same name earlier today – which by the way, I think I did okay at. Only time will tell.
Back to point at hand: What F. Herbert says in terms of authors ending a story at a certain point is absolutely true. I mean, just like life, the life of all the characters we bring to life would continue, but can you imagine how tedious the story would be if we chose to continue a story till the main protagonist died? Believe me, if I had to do that, I’d have that character meet a tragic end very very soon. But thank God, no writer is that suicidal to keep trucking on with one story all their life.
So what makes a writer stop a story where they do? How do we decide what the last scene, sentence, word should be? Why do we put that full stop to signify the ending of a journey at a particular point? I’ll use an example every one should know: J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Series. I choose this because it is an obvious example to showcase a writer’s thought pattern in choosing where to put that final full stop in a story.
J.K Rowling ends her famous series at the door step of Harry, Hermione and Ron’s childrens’ entry to Hogwarts. Why stop here when the whole story had already finished so to speak with the death of You-know-who. Why did Rowling extend the story from its obvious point to introduce the children and their entry to Hogwarts? In my opinion, Rowling is a very smart author, who has been able to keep her readership going from one book to another as if they are shackled to it. The only reason I can guess, had I been the author and prolonged the story beyond its organic end is this – she is only leaving herself a gate through which she may pursue another ‘Harry Potter-Junior’ style of story with their kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one that senses this possibility.
So here are three possible reasons that impact where an author ends a story:
1) To keep suspense – like I tried in the beginning, and which Rowling masters to some extent. This is usually employed by series.
2) To draw closure to a story at hand – to spell its end. This is usually employed by authors who have no intention of prolonging the story beyond the one book – or when a story truly has no more growth in it.
3) Some author chose this part – ending their story a bit before what the readers may assume the organic point of closure. This leaves a sense of questioning, a sense of discomfort, a sense of unease which will lead to discussions and conversations. These are for the writers who like creating a lot of buzz about the work due to their ‘fashioned’ early incomplete ending. Works for stories where there could be a multiple of possible endings and the author rather not choose one, but leave it up to their readers to fashion an ending they prefer.
I am sure there are many more reasons, but the above three would cover majority of books in the fiction world, and some in the non-fiction arena.
The devil’s in the detail!</p
What are some of the other types of ending you have noticed? Or better yet, how do you choose where you want to end your story?