Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spongebob and Casablanca


Have you ever experienced a partygoer who refused to leave? You know, the Spongebob type--happy and clueless while you mop the floor around their feet. Or are you that person?

When writing our stories, how do we know when it's time to leave the party? Do we escape too early, with our main character begging us to stay? Or should we leave in the thick of it, when the party is jumping and that person is swinging from the chandelier?

There's a balance between rushing the ending and overstaying our welcome. We want the ending to tie up loose ends, and it can summarize a theme we've instilled throughout the book. We want our endings to resonate with the reader, like the final scene from the movie Casablanca. To accomplish this, we should take our time with the final pages, give it all we've got, then get the heck out.

We know when the story is finished. It's when our main character says, "Writer, thanks for your time and for the bloody fingerprints on the keyboard. You can go now, and please take your stretchy pants with you. Oh, and here's looking at you, kid."

Bottom line: we should exit with flourish, and long before we're kicked out by the gracious host.

What do you think? How do you know when you've reached the ending? And how fast do you leave the party?


34 comments:

  1. Great post and one I wish I knew the answer to. For me, it's usually a gut feeling as well as whether or not I envision another book to follow up on it. You're 100% right though, no one wants their book to drag out and seem overplayed. Best to leave before your invitation is revoked LOL!

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  2. If things are all wrapped up, I just leave it that way, even if I want to add more. I love my characters and all they do, but it's time to say goodbye.

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  3. I try to keep from adding epilogues. For some reason, my characters won't leave! They'd rather throw their sleeping bags down for the night and pass out. Bad characters.

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  4. I know I'm done when I've tortured my characters as much as humanly (or inhumanly) possible. Mwahahaha! Actually, you're so right, it's a very delicate balance, and I personally find beginnings typically easier than endings.

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  5. What a fun post! I don't write, but I definitely read, and I totally know what you mean! No one wants to read a spongebob! :)

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  6. Interesting question, Julie. Always planning for book two, I bring it to a hopefully natural conclusion, and if it's fantasy, in the last paragraph I go back to the beginning again - set the scene for the next book - in the manner of Walter de la Mare's narrative poems. :0)

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  7. Oh, I've read books that have dragged on and on and other that left me wondering, what?!!

    You bring up a great point. Finding that balance will likely determine whether a reader will return the next time an invitation is sent out!

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  8. Great example! I exit pretty fast even when I know I need more of a word count!

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  9. What a clever post title! When I started writing I wrote massively long stories so my readers were probably begging for the ending long before I got there. ;) Now I'm trying to stick to about 100K words, though only the story and the characters know when a good ending point is.

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  10. The title is cute! Love it. I end when the last emotional climax has been reached and the last plot thread tied up. Then it's done! I like to leave on a note (not a cliffhanger) that makes them want to read more. Kind of like you said - not overstaying my welcome!

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  11. I love this question! It seems obvious, but it's not as easy at it sounds (in my opinion). But I do agree that there is a point at which the MC just is done. Going on feels wrong. And I think different opinions are okay. Like with J.K. I hated her epilogue, thought she shouldn't have included it. Yet I know plenty of people who loved it. We have to do what feels right to us.

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  12. When I feel my MC has embraced the change the story has given them and they stand strong in their new skin, then my work is done.

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  13. Hey, Julie. If the reader continues to follow us around like the camera at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day off, does that mean the book was good? Lol!
    Now I want to go grab my copy of Casablanca off of the shelf.
    Thanks for posting.
    -Jimmy

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  14. Great post. So far i've ended the story when my main plot is resolved and my character strong as the person they've become. But I'll admit that my characters still sometimes put ideas in my head telling me they aren't done. lol.

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  15. Great post Julie, thanks! I'm trying to keep a nice symmetry to my MS; my last chapter directly relates to the first chapter ;)

    Rach

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  16. I think it depends on what age group we are writing for. I think for children, however, wrapping the story up in a nice tight bow is the best.

    Excellent post, Julie :)

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  17. Good stuff here, oh yes! And yeah, when all the plot points are all tidied up I think, but not immediately. I did that and had to go back to add more resolution on one of my novels, so it wouldn't feel so chopped off. Like a song that needs some fading notes trailing off, for closure. :)

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  18. Neither my first book - nor the sequel I'm working on - are very long, so I hope I ended at just the right moment.
    Basically I ended when the story ended.

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  19. Hi Julie .. not sure .. I love reading people's stories .. and love the learning here and around the blogosphere .. so the comments are fun to read ... cheers Hilary

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  20. I would rather read a book where the novel leaves some (minor) questions open-ended than go down the Harry Potter epilogue route. I like the feeling that a character's life goes on beyond that final page and the freedom to wonder whether the rest of their life is Happily Ever After or has it's ups and downs, just like real life. So as I writer I think I would err on the side of ending too soon rather than wrapping everything up too tightly. It's over when the major book question has been answered and maybe some of the lesser issues resolved.
    - Sophia.

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  21. I never thought about this, Julie. It will be nagging at me now.

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  22. I'm getting much better at knowing when it ends. My first attempt dragged on and on and on. Hideous. Much better know!

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  23. Fun analogy and great question. I hope when I get to the end of my WIP I'll remember this and wrap it up with finesse. It's true - less is more.

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  24. Great post… I don’t have a satisfying answer; I just know the ending when I write it.

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  25. Ummm, sometimes it's hard to know when to end it, you are right, but I think I have a tendency to leave too early!

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  26. Great analogy, Julie!! Endings can be hard. Sometimes we just have to walk out the door:-)

    I try to keep this in mind when writing scenes: Arrive late and leave early.

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  27. hmm... not sure. Usually, I've decided how the story will end before I begin. But it's the middle that gets me. :D Maybe I'm a party dragger... ? <3

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  28. Interesting question. I try not to be one who stays too long, so hopefully I'm the same way with my writing.
    : )

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  29. gooood question!! i guess i've never really thought this one through, but now that you mention it..........i will keep this in mind as i look over my current wip. to date, i probably approach this issue from a gut perspective, and don't completely process it consciously.

    yet another great post, filled with thought-provoking and very usable advice.

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  30. This is a great analogy!

    I think I know once I've answered all the necessary questions and the ending clicks with me... it's that gut feeling, you know? But then again.. everything seems to be a "gut feeling" with me these days... so I may be waaaay off :D

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  31. Sometimes the last line of my story comes to me before I've finished. Then when I reach the time that line must be entered, I know I've reached the end!

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  32. What great advice from the post and the comments. Awesome.
    Thanks, Julie!

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  33. The last weeks have been mad, and I am still playing ketchup. Great post, and I wish I had an answer.
    The stories I like are the ones where the ends are left slightly ambiguous. Spongebobs, definitely not.

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  34. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

    Obat Kulit Supaya Lebih Bersih Dan Sehat
    Obat Pilek Menahun
    Obat Alami Batu Empedu
    Obat Lupus
    Obat Ginjal Bocor
    Obat Infeksi Lambung
    Penyebab TBC Kelenjar
    Obat Gatal Bibir Vagina
    Cara Menghilangkan Infeksi Jantung
    Obat Penyakit Jantung

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