Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Building a Book: Part 4, The End

So here we are, at the very end. The last 25% of your novel. Congrats to everyone who's made it this far, whether it was for NaNoWriMo, or has been years in the making. So, in the first three parts of this little series so far, we've gone over the introduction, and we've split the middle into the first half and the second half. This part is going over the very end.

The nice thing about reaching this point, is that compared to the rest, this should be easy. At this point there are three main sections to fill out.

First is the last burst of rising action. By now, your characters know what they're facing, have prepared for it, and baring a few attempts to slow them down by the malign force, they're on their way to confront the villain. In Fantasy, this is usually where the last big battle with the monster army starts. The heroes have to fight their way through all the small fry to get to the mastermind. Or maybe they have to storm the castle-base. You get the idea. There's no reason to jump right to the climax right at the 75% mark.

We've been over rising action and escalation in the previous two posts, so I think you know the routine by now. Top what happened last, but make sure you're not overshadowing the climax itself. Easy-peasy.

Is everybody here? Let's get this over with, then.

Now we get to the final battle. The inexorable question. Who wins, and who loses. Now, in some genre's it's almost a foregone conclusion, but I write horror, so it does apply. The hero doesn't have to win every time, you know. There is one major problem that occasionally happens though with the grand climaxes in a good novel. 


Yeah. It can sometimes be over that quick.

All that work leading up to the grand finale, the final confrontation, the apocalyptic battle. And suddenly, it's over in one page, maybe two. Sometimes it happens. I mean, in Fantasy it happens that along the journey, the heroes discover the villain's weakness and embark on a quest to obtain the one item which will defeat them. Then, at the end, all they have to do is use it. The villains powers are nullified, he becomes mortal, and off with his head. Of course, things don't necessarily have to be, or generally are that easy, but it does happen. When it does, don't panic. After all, this is your book, and it all comes down to what you want to happen. Maybe the item they quested for doesn't actually work, and the heroes have to try to win the hard way. Maybe the quest to get the item was a ruse all along and the point was to make the heroes stronger on their own to overcome the villain. Maybe the heroes or the villain makes an escape, setting up a sequel. You're a writer, you're creative. YOU figure it out. 

Now, I'm not actually against plotting, per say, but I greatly prefer letting the characters lead the way. When this happens, you may not reach the climax exactly how you envisioned it to begin with. If you had previously envisioned your finale working out a certain way, it can cause havoc when your characters arrive in better or worse shape than you had planned. In my current work "Hannah", I envisioned the beginning of the climactic scene, where the beast returns to the family's house in the middle of the night. I honestly have no clue what happens next. Already the story has surprised me with the additions of characters I hadn't planned on and twists that weren't in my list of scenes to write in. It also allows me to enjoy writing it more, as I get to find out what happens as I write, instead of having hoops set up and knowing who does what, when, and how effective it is.

In my opinion, the climax should come somewhere between the 80 to 90% of the book. After all, people generally wouldn't appreciate it if you chopped off the monster's head and then had "The End" as the next two words. After all that time getting to know the characters, we want to know how things work out. How do they deal with those lost along the way? Do their relationships remain strong? Does Uncle Benny move to Alaska? That kind of stuff. People want to know if there is the final, happy ending.

There are two types of endings, really. The immediate, and the Epilogue. The immediate ending is the conversation between the characters about what happens now, as they walk through the castle back out the front door and travel home again. This is the ending which follows the climax without a break and is mostly telling the reader what the character's plans for the future are now that this villain has been vanquished. It commonly includes taking home their treasure, and settling down.

The other ending is the epilogue. Usually, with one of these, there is also a short immediate ending, to let you know that, yes, the main story is over and there's no more big monsters in the way. The meat of the epilogue happens a fair bit of time afterward. Anywhere from weeks, to months, or even years later. It shows the lives the characters are living now, along with commonly having them looking back on what has happened since as well as plans for the future, and it is generally a more satisfying ending.

Now, at this point, I have to face reality and realize that there's no way I'm finishing "Hannah" on time for the end of the month. If I can get up the gumption to get back to work on it, I could probably get up to 40,000 by November 30th, but I'm not really all that concerned. Over half a book in one month is still a heck of an accomplishment and I should easily get the first draft done by the end of the year. So, expect this series to continue once I get to that point.

Anyway, my fellow writers, and anyone who likes this month's posts. Add in your email in the top right to get a notice and a link for when I do a new post. So keep writing, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

~ Shaun

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