Thursday, April 4, 2013

They don’t call it the climax for nothing: How to satisfy your audience with a powerful ending

"Stop your worrying. I talked
to Chase and he said there
is no chance in hell that
they would use that
ridiculous scene to end th--"
As with rock concerts, fireworks displays, and full-body massages, you can’t have a great story without a great ending–or grand finale as the French would say, which oddly enough means “1,000 curtain-rod end-pieces” (origin unknown).

Think of the climax as your gift to the audience for all they’ve endured to get to the end of the story—whether plowing through page after page of Stephen King’s description of the hedge maze in The Shining, or simply maintaining your expectant smile and raised eyebrows as your roommate tells you anew about last night’s date.

They’ve done their part, so you’ve got to do yours. But how? Here are two resources that should prove helpful.

The first is a well thought out tutorial by Ylva Publishing—“Publisher of lesbian fiction and women’s literature” (rawr). The post, entitled “Satisfying endings,” skillfully guides the reader from the climax—“the highest point of tension and action,” to the denouement, another French word which, roughly translated, means, “Thanks. I’ll call you.”

It’s worth a read … and maybe even a cigarette.

But the most instructive tutorial on the importance of a good ending is found here—a video of the 2010 Disclosure Conference at the National Press Club. It’s long (an hour and change), but the stories are riveting. And the endings are even better.

I can state with certainty that you will never encounter worse endings than these, which is amazing because these stories are the eye-witness accounts of aliens hovering over nuclear missile silos and deactivating the nukes, and they’re being told by the former Air Force officers who commanded those missile silos!

In their defense, these guys were probably as surprised that they were speaking at a national news briefing as they were about their close encounters with aliens. And possibly even more frightened by it. But even cutting them that slack, these are without a doubt the most horrendous endings on some of the most amazing stories of all time.

Take the time to watch video. Study each ending closely. And then do the opposite when it’s your turn to tell a story.

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