The Story Ending

Story Ending in The Matrix
Story Ending in The Matrix

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FLEDGLING writers are often told that they should know the story ending before they start writing its beginning. Syd Field immediately comes to mind.

But why should this be the case? What’s so important about the story ending?

Think of it this way: All journeys point toward their end. Simply put, the ending gives the story its purpose, it confirms its theme – its raison d’être.

The theme, which contains the moral essence of the tale, is only proved as a result of the final showdown between the hero and his nemesis at the end of a story: The winner carries the theme. Badly crafted endings, therefore, make for badly themed stories.

How the Story Ending Shapes the Tale

In The Matrix, human love, imagination, and determination, trump machine intelligence. This only emerges at the end of the story with the resurrection of Neo through Trinity’s kiss and the result of his final confrontation with agent Smith. Had Neo died at the hands of Smith, the theme would have been exactly the opposite. Knowing the ending, therefore, shapes the kind of beginning your story may have, within your chosen genre, in order to maintain believability and coherence.

But to chart the path to a final location in three dimensional space, you need three points. That’s where the midpoint of your story comes in. The midpoint forces the beginning to deflect through a further point in story space in order to reach the endpoint. The midpoint, therefore, further influences the sort of beginning your story may have and still achieve a pleasing shape. Carelessly placed beginning, middle, and endpoints result in meaningless squiggles.

How do you draw a pleasing story shape? You use mounting opposition to the Hero’s achieving his goal, driven by tension, pace, and conflict, to guide your hand. Joining the dots , then, will result in an interesting zigzagging line which climbs upwards to a powerful ending.

Summary

Crafting the story ending as an inevitable part of its beginning and middle makes for a coherent tale.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

4 thoughts on “The Story Ending”

  1. Joseph Campbell Professor of Literature argued that the great moral question of our time is whether or not mankind will live for humanity or the machine. It would be interesting to get more subtext of the story to determine the the ending. However the first glance I get from the synopsis is that mankind has reached the point of no return and relies on AI technology almost religiously.

    1. Funny you should say that, because the ending hints at an almost theological dimension. I’m just over half way through the novel, so more on that later.

  2. It hardly ever is the case that a writer does not have some idea of how his story must end. It’s all about the message the writer is trying to get across. A happy ending is always the most satisfying ending yet not always the most effective. The original ending of Hans Christian Anderson telling of the Little Mermaid has the main protagonist choosing to turn into sea foam over killing her love interest , a very different ending then having them sail into the sunset. The Disney retelling of the fairy tale compactly misses the theme of the story: No matter how much you are willing to change yourself for someone – some things just can’t be. Same applies to historical figures. Pocahontas does not stay with her tribe and watch how John Smith leave for England – according to history Pocahontas left for the new world and never came back. The Animated film has a very different outcome then what actually happened – But who cares it’s a happy ending.

    In short : When writing an ending are you aiming for satisfaction ( happy endings) or an ending that has you crying from sorrow ( Titanic/ Gladiator/ Brave heart)

    1. Thanks, Gerhard. In my forthcoming science fiction novel, Before the First Light, I have to decide on just these issues, an ending that can go either way — is a sentient AI good or bad for humanity? In story terms, should there be an ‘up’ or ‘down’ ending? Watch this space.

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