Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Where Should Your Story End?

Great job! You've figured out exactly where your story starts

Now, you're ready to move forward with writing your novel. All you have to do is start with the end of the story.

What? Move forward all the way to the end? But why? 

Envisioning the end of your story will give you a direction to go. You will have a target to aim for. You already have the structure epic ending of your novel constructed on your Blake Snyder beat sheet

The ending will probably span from the "Break Into Three" beat to the "Final Image" beat. But the final chapter of your novel will likely consist of the "Finale" and the "Final Image" beat sequences only.

Yet this is still not the ending I'm talking about. The ending I'm referring to is the end of your protagonist's internal change. How she has completed the inner transformation from who she was in the "Opening Image" to the drastically different person she became at the "Final Image".

That's the ending you need to be concerned with.

The end of your novel should be at the place where the protagonist completes her heart and mind transformation and finally sees her longstanding misbelief for what it is--a crazy misbelief. She can look at it, knowing she no longer needs to fear the things that the misbelief made her fear. She's free from her guilt, shame and self-loathing. If you get the final chapter right, both your heroine and your reader will know that a real change took place.

This is how, when and where your story should end.

In my young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse, my heroine, Sandra Porter spends the last chapter of the story in a jail cell. This is a drastically different place from the loveless house she wanted so badly to escape from in the first chapter. She was free to leave that old house, free to come and go as she pleased. Neither her catatonic mother or her emotionally frigid aunt paid attention to her. Living a teenager's dream, she could have done anything she wanted.  

She was free on the outside. But on the inside, she was imprisoned by loneliness.

In the last chapter, Sandra can't leave the place where she physically stands.  Concrete block walls and high tensile steel bars prevent her from leaving her tiny jail cell. Yet, by reading her thoughts, the reader can clearly see that she's been made free in her heart. She'd been emancipated from the longstanding misbelief that held her captive for such a long time. The fear that she can't do anything right--especially build relationships--no longer had a stronghold on her. 

But Sandra took her newfound freedom a step further.

She discovered that she was better off on her own. But how? While she was on her own, she found something far more valuable than friends. She found her self-respect--something she didn't have in the first chapter.

One of the most important reasons why you should flesh out the first chapter of your novel, then fast forward all the way to the last chapter and flesh it out is to check your story math. You want to make sure your protagonist really experienced change. 

If after writing a rough draft of your first and last chapters, you can't see the dramatic internal change that took place in your protagonist's heart and mind, you might need to rethink your storyline.

You might need to change your ending, or your beginning. Or maybe both.

By the end of your novel, your reader wants to emerge changed internally, just as your heroine has emerged changed internally. If neither your protagonist, nor your reader changes by the final chapter, you don't have a story. And you will end up with more than a few dissatisfied readers. 

Give your reader what she wants most out of reading your story--a change of her own heart and mind.

The last thing you want is a long list of negative reviews on Amazon because you failed to force your readers to vicariously change along with your heroine.

The other important reason for writing a first draft of your ending chapter--as well as your beginning chapter--before you write anything else is to prove that the story structure you mapped out in your Blake Snyder beat sheet makes sense. These two critical chapters will tell you whether or not you're on the right track concerning your storyline.

Tattoo the following sentence backwards on your forehead:

All stories are about transformation--internal transformation.

If you do, you will be reminded of this monumental truth every time you look in the mirror.

Yeah, it's that important.

Work hard to reveal the protagonist's internal transformation to your reader in every story you write. Doing this will turn your stories into novels that readers love.

Happy writing,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse 
and The Dangerous Way Home

P. S. - When an actor reads through screenplays he might want to play the lead role in, he will look at the first ten pages, then skip to the last ten pages to see if the hero shows a major change. If the actor doesn't clearly see a major change in the hero of the script on those last ten pages, the actor throws the script into the wastebasket, and moves on to another prospective screenplay. End of story.


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