I’ve said in previous posts that one of the most important parts of concluding a series is creating closure. You need to bring things to an end, which isn’t as easy as some people think. In fact, one of the reasons it can be so tough is because you have a variety of closure types to choose from. It depends a lot on what you’re going for, but even planning doesn’t alleviate all the pressure. So, what are the types?
- Classic Good Ending– All of the good guys get what they wanted and all of the bad guys got what they deserved. It’s the oldest type of closure in the book. Nothing messy and no risk of people feeling it’s a downer. Though, you might get called out for being weak and unoriginal.
- Classic Bad Ending– I’m not sure how long it took for someone to write the first story where the bad guys win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the second type of closure ever made. All of the bad guys get what they wanted and all of the good guys get nothing they deserved. Darkness reigns and you leave the audience feeling a little down. You might also get a few angry readers who feel like they just wasted their time investing in characters that were destined to lose.
- One Stage Ends, Another Begins– This one is more complicated and works best when you’re going to start a new series with the same characters. The first adventure ends with a sense of closure and the heroes move on. Some of them head off into the sunset in search of the next adventure like how Mad Max finishes his adventure and leaves right after. Other times the hero might retire and be brought back for a new quest that is remotely connected. Another twist on this one is when the villain finds a way to return and battle a new batch of heroes. This one certainly has more variety than 1 and 2.
- Everyone Dies!– Not a positive one since it means you wipe everyone out, which may even include the villain. Basically, you decimate the entire cast and leave no question about it being over.
- The Sacrifice– It’s rather self-explanatory and requires a build up. At the very least some foreshadowing. This is when a hero, either main or supporting, ends the series by making a sacrifice. Now, I’m putting this one in a separate category because it is not always an obvious choice. There’s is a big difference between Spock sacrificing himself to save the ship and Gollum inadvertently sacrificing himself to destroy the One Ring. Both acts bring an end to the overall quest, but the motivations are much different and require that you make it work for the character in question.
- Failure in Victory– Hard to explain this one. Basically, the heroes succeed in their quest, but find that doing so actually makes the world worse. Maybe killing that dragon cleared the path for a demon that feared it. Perhaps choosing one love interest results in a life of misery before divorce. The protagonists do get what they want, but then it’s revealed that it isn’t as good as they expected.
- Trauma– Another easy one to figure out. The heroes win, but they aren’t coming out in one piece. It could be that they are in a coma, missing some body parts, amnesia, or any number of possible afflictions. You still get closure with the heroes winning, but it comes with a major downside. It brings into question if some quests are worth taking if you don’t come out intact or even get to reap the rewards.
- Mixed Bag– This works for ensemble casts where every character gets a different type of closure. Some live happily ever after, others die in the finale, and then you have those that are in-between. By that, I mean some live, but not happily ever after. This is a tough one to pull off if every character has fans. Nobody wants their favorite to get the bad ending, but you can’t always rationalize everyone surviving. Especially if the final part is a big battle.