Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Story's Ending


Imagine this feather, which lodged in a pine tree in my backyard one day this summer, drifting and floating and settling into place after falling from a bluejay. It's a peaceful, quiet thing to see, that drifting feather.

Now read this with that settling feather in mind:

Not long ago I read these words in a blog post from PK Hrezo: "The ending to your story should be like dropping a feather--let it drift and settle. It's not a bowling ball that falls with a thud." In the blog post, PK was summarizing some notes she took during a writing conference, and I don't know about you, but those two sentences . . . hit me like a bowling ball.

Not in a bad way, but in a perfect way. It says what I've always thought about a book's ending and could never put to words. Strange for a writer, but true in this case. My favorite endings to books aren't those that surprise the pants off me or those that leave me hanging, but neither do I want a perfect ending. I want an ending that drifts and settles.

And so this image--this drifting, falling, settling feather--depicts a story's end. Where the ending lands is up for grabs, as it should be, but how the ending falls should be in tune with the story.

What great stuff have you heard about writing a story's ending? When you read, what makes you love an ending?

13 comments:

  1. Love, love the quote and the imagery of the feather. It's true, those endings that are so organic they drift into place are the best. The bowling ball endings that are forced can ruin the whole book.

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  2. That was beautiful, Barbara. You made me think about the ending to all my stories. I think they fall like a feather...or at least I hope they do. :)

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  3. I love thinking of the ending as the tail end of an almost complete circle - you can touch the beginning, yet you're not in the same spot and have traveled a lot of ground.

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    1. That is an awesome visual as well as description.

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  4. Okay, first off: gorgeous feather!

    Secondly, I absolutely love the idea of an ending drifting and settling. That is such a great description for that kind of conclusion! While I agree that it's best for many books to end this way, I don't believe those thud-like bowling ball ones should be discounted, either. Some genres, like horror, work really well with an ending that seems to PUNCH! instead of drift. In the end, it all comes down to what would be the most satisfying for each particular story; nothing, not even ending-types, are one-size-fits-all!

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    1. Good point about genre, Heather. I'm not a horror reader, but I can see the bowling ball working well there. :-)

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  5. Wow, that is a perfect description of the effect an ending should have.

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  6. What a great tip! Thanks, PK Hrezo. And thanks, Barbara for passing it on.

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  7. I love this description! I have never heard any other description for how to end a book that even compares. I like endings that make sense, that answer my questions, and there can be a surprise- but I like the ending to settle around me. The picture to go with it is perfect!
    ~Jess

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  8. what an interesting perspective. I love a book that is satisfying. And preferrably not predictable.

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  9. what a beautiful quote -- thanks so much for gifting it to us!!

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  10. Wow! I love this post, Barbara. Thank you so much for sharing. Such a beautiful picture, and it rings so true to me. Thank you for giving me such a great perspective on what makes a "good" ending.

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  11. Beautiful photo, and I love the thoughts you've shared re story endings. I definitely can use advice on that point!

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