Should You Know Your Ending?

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I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to disagree with this sentiment.  The path of the pantser if fairly common.  Not the way I do things, but I’ve run into many who simply fly into a story to see where it goes.  There could be an ending in mind or it could just be a beginning or middle that they have.  One thing I can be sure of is that it differs from person to person.  Then again, I’m a severe plotter, so I shouldn’t speak as if I understand the other side of the pasture.

While I don’t come up with my endings first, I do like to have them in mind before I start writing.  This helps me keep things on track and avoid running the story into a brick wall or minefield.  Some would say that the downside is that your writing becomes too linear and dull because you remove the chaos of creation.  I can see how you can come to that conclusion, but deciding on the ending doesn’t mean you know how you’re going to get there.  Most of my books had the finale planned out, but I only had a general idea of how to get there.  That goes for chapter and book endings.  Probably why I had the outlines and still had that excitement of not really knowing what will happen.

Sometimes, I like to think of writing like driving.  Biggest difference is that I really enjoy writing and driving is just something I do to get around. Anyway, you know where you’re supposed to go, but there are different routes to get there.  Of course, you have the most common one that you know the best and is kind of obvious.  Yet, there could be an accident or broken street light that forces you to take a detour.  Maybe you forgot about a parade that closes off a bunch of streets.  Either way, you need to get to your intended ending by a different route.  I’m reminded of how people say it’s the journey and not the destination that’s important when it comes to traveling.  Well, the same can be said for writing for both the author and reader.  As long as you get to where you’re going, it should all work out.

Again, this is personal taste.  I like dealing with as many known entities as I can because the unknown can drive me up the wall.  Some of it is a good thing because you can’t know everything.  It’s when I don’t have a plan or the plan I do have is too flimsy to give me comfort that I have issues.  So, knowing my ending gives me a target and faith that I can finish the project.  Maybe it goes against my more roving and rambling nature, which I had in high school too.  After all, I had a bad habit of turning a short story into a novel because I kept building on things.  That ending means I can’t go over the top and risk destroying everything because I keep thinking up ‘cool twists’.  So, it’s a personal restraint on my creativity that I psychologically require.

That’s all just me though.  I’m sure many opinions are waiting to appear in the comments if they haven’t already.  So, what do you think about knowing your ending?

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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71 Responses to Should You Know Your Ending?

  1. I think at minimum, you must have a vague ending in mind. Otherwise you have no plot at all. You don’t need to map it out right down to the body count. My example is Lanternfish. It’s basic plot is a save the princess story. (Without an actual princess in sight.) All the weird crap happens between her abduction, and saving her, but without that goal there is no story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Any stories or poems I’ve done, get started off by an idea or theme coming into my head, then something, or someone, seems to take over my thinking and the events up to the ending are a surprise to me. Guess that means I’m a Pantser?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed the discussion. I always sit down and write out what I hope will be the last three lines before I begin a book. They don’t always remain in place as I wrote them but do provide a destination for my trip.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, I’m a severe plotter like you. I have a structured outline and I’ve written the last 4 chapters already. Now, the ending gets added too as I review and tie things up. Beginning chapters are done, and I’m working on the middle chapters now. Knowing the ending & sticking to a structured outline keeps me writing everyday. 📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like having a direction to write TOWARD. And I’ll figure out how I get there on the way. I mean — I write an brief outline… and then I ignore it unless I get stuck.

    BUT, if the plot twists on my way, I’m not opposed to revamping my ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. L. Marie says:

    Another great post!
    While I might not always begin a book knowing how it will end, by the time I reach the midpoint, I like to have at least an idea of how the book will end.
    I have written books where I knew exactly how they would end. This is why I really admire the Harry Potter series and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Rowling and the Avatar creators knew how their series would end before they really got going. Konietzko and DiMartino even said in their book on the series (which I have read multiple times) that before the project was picked up by the network, they knew how the series would end.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A. Nonymous says:

    Reblogged this on The Perils of Improbable Potholes and commented:
    Came to this conclusion through many years of unfinished stories. Am dealing with this now as I publish fragments here on “Perils of Improbable Potholes.”. But it is right in a minimum sense. Even better : write at least three different endings and constrain your scenes and characters and plots to make all three work.
    Consider : what if the hero gets what they ask for, but not what they want.
    Consider : the villain wins.
    Consider : neither win, and the ancillary characters feed on the mess left behind (Homework: watch “To Live and Die in LA.”)
    Consider : writing something that violates your beliefs.
    It is a bit painful, like extreme practice in martial arts (hundreds or even thousands of repetitions of a single technique), but it makes your work champion quality. Or so I have heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I usually have ‘an idea’ about the ending for my stories but whether that’s the same ending that makes it to the final cut is quite debatable. The ending of my current WIP changed a heck of a lot in the writing process and now looks quite different from the original outline. In one of Harmony Kent’s Story Empire posts she spoke about some writers being a mingle of Plotters and Pansters; a Planster. I firmly fit into this category as in, I have a reasonable outline (including ending), but during the journey anything goes! This way I keep the creative chaos (great expression by the way), but have the comfort of a semi-structure to guide me.
    Great post Charles.

    Like

    • I think I straddle the line a bit too. I plan a lot beforehand and then I see where the path is. Kind of like planning the stops of a trip, but not the exact route. Tend to adjust things as I go too. You never know if a scene will work until you try it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have to know the ending before I get started. It’s the whole point of the story. As to how I get there, I plan ahead, but not far. The road can be twisty without a lot of signposts. Sometimes there’s a detour or dead end, but I always have the destination in mind.

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  10. I was always taught writing a story is like filling the sandwich. You need to have the bread before the filling. I realise it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes changes do need to be made. Sandwiches these days often only have one piece of bread, so that does mean anything can happen.

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  11. Jemima Pett says:

    Sometimes my endings take me by surprise, generally because the characters do something much better than my original idea!

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  12. Staci Troilo says:

    If I didn’t know my endings in advance, I’d probably still be writing my first novel. And it would be LOOOOOONG.

    But in the end, I’d never tell someone they had to do it that way. Writers have to do what works for them.

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  13. I’ve written a couple of books where I had a definitive ending in mind. I’ve also written others with an ending in mind that has totally changed as the book evolved. Of course, there are others where I start with a title and hope for the best. No method to the madness that is my writing. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from Charles Yallowitz that asks: Should You Know Your Ending?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I always write to an ending, or at least an idea of an ending, it gives me direction. All the surprises and discoveries are made on the journey, like solving a mystery.

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  16. I’m like you. I usually know where I want my story to go. But I’m open to changing that if circumstances dictate. Honesty is very important to me in story telling. If the ending I planned would not be honest, then I follow the truth.

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  17. I would like to say I have a ‘general idea’ about how my book ends. But I admit, I experienced the one or other surprise. 😀

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  18. Pingback: Should You Know Your Ending? – Written By Charles Yallowitz – Writer's Treasure Chest

  19. Personally I tend to have a beginning, rough end and a rough event that happens in between in my mind when I am writing. These aren’t set in concrete and are adapted more often than not but it helps me keep a focus so my creativity is kept under control and knows the direction it’s supposed to be going in

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