When I first started writing I would begin story after story, make it about five hundred words in and then wham, hit a brick wall. I could not figure out how to end a piece. I had a vision in my head. I wanted the main guy to do X, but then I would get lost on how to actually get him there. This is until I realized that an ending is based on three vital parts.
All three work in concert and get me to a place where I can put an ending on a short story, or longer work. It is really about the flow of events, because an ending is the conclusion to a natural sequence.
In the grand scheme of things writing a story is satisfying desires.
It’s natural, it makes sense, it’s not overly complicated.
In improve it is called, “and then.”
As a simple example let’s look at making toast.
First, who is our character making the toast?
Maybe the protagonist is a war vet who lost a hand in combat.
His intention is to quench hunger.
And the momentum in this story would be the steps in making toast.
We all know the sequence to making toast.
You take the bag of bread. Open it up. Take out two pieces. Put them in the toaster. Depress the mechanism. And wait. Pop, the toast arrives, hot and ready to be slathered with butter and jam.Crunch, he takes a bite.
But for a person who only has one hand there are the challenges.
And as the great Danny Devito once said about plot: Put a character up a tree and then get him down again.
We know who our character is and our tree is a making toast with one hand
The challenges include:
How does he get the bag open? Or get the bag to stay still while he reaches in and grabs the bread? I imagine spreading butter and jam could be hard also. So many little nuances to making a simple breakfast of toast that a person with two hands never thinks about.
Making the toast is the intended momentum and is determined by the emphasis placed on the characterization. The emotionality from this movement are the elements you give the character.
Who is this person and what do they want? He wants toast, but has been stymied by a combat injury and a simple plastic bag.
He went from being a hero defending his country to being unable to do things he once considered simple. he has to rethink his entire life.
I imagine the character is reminded about losing his hand. Maybe he replays the moment in combat and what that means for his future. Maybe he laments a missed opportunity.
This is all in addition to making toast and moves the reader to follow the action and cheer our vet on and once the undertaken action is accomplished the reader can put down the story satisfied.
The end of the movement marks a departure for the character.
He achieved a goal.
Or he failed miserably.
Either way he is different and the reader knows a little bit more about his life going forward.
Can we continue to show this guys life?
Sure, but we don’t need to. In terms of an ending we have one. He either did, or did not make toast.
We have a result. It’s still an ending based on characterizations and with good characterizations a writer can make watching paint dry interesting.