A Hero’s Fate Is Not Always Simple

Fullmetal Alchemist

The fate of the champions and the Baron has always been swirling in my head as I wrote the books.  Once I reached Warlord of the Forgotten Age, I had to make choices on who gets what ending.  It’s both a pro and con to have an ensemble cast here.  You can create a variety of endings because each character gets his or her own closure.  The hard part is having everything make sense and hope people accept the decisions.  It might be cleaner to give everyone a straight good or straight bad ending, but that’s simply not how the world works.  Here are some of the categories I came up with since going into specifics would create spoilers:

DEATH!

Rather self-explanatory here.  Some heroes die, especially when you’re working with a group.  Stories that don’t have action and violence can avoid this, but I write adventure stories.  Death had to be a consideration and I needed to make sure this was still on the table.  Otherwise, that final battle wouldn’t feel as threatening as it was.

Perfect Happily Ever After

On the other end of the spectrum is the one where the characters get out unscathed and go on to live a happy life.  Honestly, I’m not entirely behind this one because it seems fairly unbelievable.  There has to be some kind of mental or physical scarring, especially if another character is killed.  Survivors guilt and PTSD are real things.  Apologies if those are actually the same thing since I’ve seen people try to use the terms interchangeably a few times.  Anyway, this ending does get a lot of eye rolls these days because people find it hard to see it as a true option.  Maybe we’ve become more cynical a society, which keeps this ending in the children’s section.

Scarred Ever After

This is the one I feel is more believable as long as the characters survive.  I’m not talking about it always being extreme either.  Yes, a character could lose limbs or sacrifice their powers for the win.  Another possibility is them having nightmares afterwards or being unable to enter a battle because of something psychological.  Final battles are supposed to push heroes to their limits. This is where they are most likely to fray around the edges since everything is on the line.  They still go on to live a happy life too, but they always carry the reminders of battle in some way.

Villains Win/Heroes Rebel

It’s not a great ending if you’re ending the series and can be downright disastrous if you don’t follow through with another.  Readers who have invested time and energy into the adventure can get angry if it was all for nothing.  The villain winning does become that since they followed the heroes.  What was the point if they were going to lose when it really counts?  So, you have to be ready to either write a series to show the rebellion or at least answer questions about it.  It could even be that a new group of heroes show up to finish the fight, but this type of ending doesn’t really bring full closure.

It Was All A Dream

No!  Bad author!  Back in the inspiration box until you realize what you’ve done!

Wandering Into the Sunset

This one can cover a lot of ground since it revolves around the hero finishing the battle and walking away.  Unlike survivors in the ‘happy endings’, these characters won’t go on to settle down with a family, rule a kingdom, or do anything stationary.  They simply walk away for one reason or another to roam the world.  Maybe they did something horrible and feel like they still need redemption.  It could also be that they feel like there is still plenty of evil out there for them to battle.  The point is that they don’t take a lot of time to revel in the well-earned victory and are off to another adventure.  Much like the Villain Winning scenario, this might require some information for after the fact.  Not necessarily a whole series or even notes, but possibly a cameo in a future story that reveals their final fate.

Disappearing Hero

When the smoke clears, a hero is simply gone.  Nobody knows where they went and stories come out as the series ends.  Is this hero dead?  Without a body, there’s no way to tell, but there are signs they’re still out there.  The fun part about this one is that it allows you to leave this character on the shelf to become anything.  It’s similar to the previous category, but with less direction, so you can have them revealed as actually dead or even turning them into a future villain.  I will admit that many can see this as a cop out at times, so again you need a good follow through.

What’s a type of hero ending that you enjoy or would give to one of your own?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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20 Responses to A Hero’s Fate Is Not Always Simple

  1. I still like the happy ever after scenario. I don’t know why maybe the romantic in me.

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  2. I hadn’t really thought of the last one, but I really like it. I can see Lloyd leaving chocolates and a note.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    I like an ending that at least shows survival, even if scarring occurs. Some battles–especially the ones that really count–change a character forever. Frodo was left with nine fingers and and a bit of PTSD at the end of LoTR.

    I’m dealing with this in my middle grade novel and in a young adult novel I’m working on, where two characters wind up literally scarred for life.

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  4. You forgot one ending, I call it: Kill everyone and don’t explain how they died. You can have a fight in fog, at night or in a snow storm and then cut to another day where all the bodies are found without anyone knowing who killed who. I think I actually read that one once.
    I prefer a happy ending though.

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  5. You have an ensemble, so I’d think a mix of outcomes. Some sacrifice all, some survive with trauma, some emerge intact. I would never do the vanishing one, though!

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