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Start At The End

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Start At The End
Have you ever read a story with an intriguing plot, compelling characters and great action, but when it came down to the end of the story, the author dropped the ball?  Rather than being unsatisfying, it was irritating.  So annoying that you ended up hating the story?

This happens all the time in movies, where it seems like they had a great idea at first, but then messed up the story so badly that it killed the entire tale.  This is all because the writer failed to do one of the most important things with the story:  Start at the end.
Know Where You Are Going
When thinking about how to begin a story, most writers don’t think to start at the end. But if you want to take a trip, if you want to build a bridge, if you want to paint a masterpiece, if you want to write a symphony, or if you want to cook a good meal, you need to start with the ending.  You must know where you are going.  You must know what you are making.  You must know what you want.  Do you have a strong picture in your mind of what you’re story is about?  Start at the end of the story to know what its about.
But I don’t write that way. . .
Some writers can’t write like this.   They’re the kind of person that just likes to sit down and start typing, letting their story take them where it wants to go.  This is actually a great way to unearth the diamonds of great stories from the subconscious mind.  So if you’re like this, just keep in mind that you may need to fix the ending in a re-write.  After you finish a story written this way, go back to the beginning and see if you can find a hint of the ending there.
How do you create a satisfying ending?
Defeating the bad guy or accomplishing the goal isn’t the only thing that’s important.  You need to make it emotionally satisfying as well.  To do this, you’ll need to set up a character arc in your story.  The way you set up character change is by designing your characters so that they have a main character flaw which is demonstrated throughout the story.

As the story progresses, the character will be confronted with emotional tension related to their weakness, and this will draw out their need.  The character’s need will determine what will change after the climax of the story.

So, create a character flaw in the form of a weakness, set up the opponent so that the opponent draws out that flaw and then have it revealed to the character near the end of the story.  Character change is what your audience is looking for in a story.
Action Steps
The end of the story is made possible by what happens in the beginning.  You need to address two things:  The hero’s desire, which forms the spine of the story, and the hero’s need, which forms the heart of the story.  To make sure that your readers will always love your stories, ask yourself these questions:

1. What is your story about? What is the purpose of your story?

2. What is the main character’s goal? The desire forms the spine of the story.

3. How does the opponent come in conflict with the hero’s goal?
It is better to think of it as the hero and opponent competing for the same goal, rather than the opponent interfering with the character’s goal.

4. Will the hero or the opponent win? Not all heroes succeed in their quest. The opponent sometimes wins.

5. What is the hero’s main character flaw? The weakness will form the heart of the story.

6. How can you demonstrate this weakness in the beginning of the story? Show how the character flaw is ruining the hero’s life.

7. How does the opponent come in conflict with the hero’s character flaw? For instance, if the hero is ambitious, the opponent might appeal to the character’s pride.

8. How will the hero overcome his character flaw and realize his need? The weakness is gradually revealed over the course of the story, and it becomes obvious to the hero near the end.
This is called the self-revelation.

What to do now
Sit down and write out the answers to the above questions.  Once you have an idea of the spine and the heart of your story, you’re ready to begin.  These techniques work.  When you know how your story will end, you’ll be able to create a better ending that will keep your audience happy.

– Mark O’Bannon

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