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  • How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Toast at 21:19 on 21 December 2012
    Having ditched the first, far-too-shitty first draft of my first ever novel, I've just finished a second, from-scratch version of it - or have I? The supposedly closing scene ends a bit... bleh...

    I may be only a sentence away from genius but, having got to this point, I realise I've read a lot about all sorts of stuff - openings, raising questions, plot structure, pace, conflict, etc. etc. but I've read absolutely zero about what's involved in writing a good final scene (and especially ending that final scene).

    I just googled and nothing useful is popping out.

    Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the climax and I've done the resolution of all the bits that need resolving. I just need a way to say goodbye to the characters and give the reader a sense of closure (and a burning desire to buy the sequel).

    I'm looking at the last few pp of lots of books on my shelf now but it's hard to spot a general pattern.

    Can anyone suggest some good reading on this, preferably online, since I've got a special box of chox waiting to reward me for finishing my novel...
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by EmmaD at 22:50 on 21 December 2012
    CarolineSG raised a similar question a couple of years ago on here, and it developed a great thread:

    http://www.writewords.org.uk/forum/112_355577.asp

    (I ended up blogging about it, too, but it doesn't say much that wasn't said on that thread, just a bit tidied up: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2011/02/handclasps-explosions-and-ribbons-and-bows.html )

  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Toast at 08:42 on 22 December 2012
    Thanks, Emma - I'll look at those now.

    I realised yesterday how much effort and thought I'd put into the characters and plot as far as the final climactic scene and hadn't thought about the closing, story's-over scenes beyond, 'And then I'll just say a load of stuff.'
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Terry Edge at 10:13 on 22 December 2012
    I was at a concert by Natalie Merchant several years back. She'd just left 10000 Maniacs and was, in my view, at the peak of her creative powers. The concert was fantastic - full of energy and emotion. She added some touching elements, too, like singing an obscure Vera Lynn song she'd found in the library the day before. Anyway, she did a couple of encores to great response; then she came out for a third but before beginning, turned to the audience and said something like, "Hmmm, I hope I haven't gone over the line. You're always supposed to leave your audience wanting more."

    Which for me illustrates just how difficult it is to get endings right. You want the reader to feel satisfied but still wanting more. And it's very easy to go over that line. Look at Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the original finished brilliantly, with the chosen and self-chosen Earth people entering the ship. But then Spielberg had to do a Director's Cut, didn't he, where he adds on 15 mins or so of them inside the ship, completely deflating the end high.

    So, while I'm sure there are books out there to help, in the end I think you just have to first develop then trust your instinct to get the balance right.
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Toast at 13:46 on 22 December 2012
    Thanks, Terry - it's just feeling very abrupt at the moment.

    It's been helpful reading that thread that Emma linked to - made me realise that although my protag had achieved something critical to his future well-being, that's not the note I've ended on and I think I probably need to. Am going to work on it now!
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Toast at 16:42 on 22 December 2012
    Now I've finished!

    Thanks, all, for the advice and the pointer to that other, very useful thread - I chopped the final scene into five scenes, gave them each a bit more substance and emotion, and then did a sort of into-the-sunset thing with my hero going off on a journey with his new life ahead of him.

    And now that I've written my first ever novel, I can have those chocolates!

  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by EmmaH at 09:55 on 23 December 2012
    Terry, Natalie Merchant is amazing. Wish I'd been at that concert. Can't even listen to Dustbowl Days without getting all choked up.

    <Added>

    Sorry, Toast, not very helpful! Personally I strive to finish on a note that's slightly poignant or emotional. I can't pin it down any closer than that.
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by maxcarig at 11:10 on 24 December 2012
    EmmaD
    thanks for this it's really helpful for me.
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by EmmaD at 11:13 on 07 January 2013
    Maxcraig, you're welcome! Glad it helped.

    Emma
  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by AlanH at 14:36 on 07 January 2013
    Which for me illustrates just how difficult it is to get endings right. You want the reader to feel satisfied but still wanting more. And it's very easy to go over that line. Look at Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the original finished brilliantly, with the chosen and self-chosen Earth people entering the ship. But then Spielberg had to do a Director's Cut, didn't he, where he adds on 15 mins or so of them inside the ship, completely deflating the end high.


    For me, the worst film ending is that of Alien.
    That sorry man-in-a-suit dangling from the ship was laughable, after all the tension had been crafted by only giving juicy snippets of the creature.

    It's funny how endings are ignored. Does an agent ever say "send me your last three chapters?"
    Maybe they should. Or ask for the first and last.

  • Re: How to write the closing scenes of a novel
    by Terry Edge at 18:20 on 07 January 2013
    Some director recently said he thinks one of the reasons endings are often bad is because in the pitching process, you only pitch the first two acts; everyone worries about the ending later. And I think he also said endings are difficult because they don't really happen in real life. I think I mentioned on another thread that Ray Bradbury was very good at endings: often stopped them just before the final decision/event occurs, so the reader could in effect finish it himself, rather than be Speilberged to death with it. (AI had one of the worst endings, I think. Should have finished with the android boy at the bottom of the ocean - touching, tragic, etc. Instead, Speilberg has him saved and loved by a bunch of aliens, if I recall.)