Monday, May 30, 2011

Writing Conclusions - The final battle

Today is the last day to get your 150 words turned in to me! They must land in my inbox by 11:59pm central time this evening. If you've sent me an entry but haven't received a confirmation, please send me an email now. Don't wait for Tuesday, because they'll be with the first round judge by then and it will likely be too late.

There appears to be a little confusion over this round, so let me clarify a couple things before we get on to talking about the final battle:

  • Don't send me your first chapter, just 150 words.
  • It doesn't need to be a whole scene packed into 150 words. It's just like our regular writing prompts; it's the opening of a story.
  • The judges know the deal - that these are the first 150 words of a novel. That's what they're expecting to read. They want to be drawn in to your story world, they want a peek at your main character, and they want a question or two lingering in their mind. Pull a few of your favorite books off the shelf, read the first 150 words. That's what you're shooting for.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about with all this writing prompt jibber-jabber, click here to see contest details. If you have questions, leave a comment below.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's move on to the final battle.

We're making a check list of sorts and we wrap up our first drafts. So far we've made sure:

And now it's time for the final battle.

The final battle is basically what it sounds like. It's where your character gets to try out their newfound knowledge from the epiphany moment - I'm not a total screw-up, money isn't that important, war can be fought with honor. Whatever it is they've learned - whatever it is they needed this journey for - you're now going to test them on it.

Don't forget their instincts

When your character is in the final battle, be careful to not make it too easy on them.

Let's say your main character is an I-can-do-it-myself kind of guy. He is a rock. He is an island. But during the epiphany moment, something has happened to show him people are designed to work as a community, that it's dangerous to be so isolated.

During his final test, he should feel some sort of temptation to head off on his own, take care of #1, the way he always has. But then he'll remember what he just learned, and he'll push himself to ignore his instincts and work as a team toward the solution.

They come through ... but not without a loss or two

You're so close to the end, it's tempting to make the final battle kinda easy. Be thinking about what you can take away. Your main character should triumph in the battle, for sure, but they really shouldn't get everything they want. In a manuscript of mine, the MC chooses to keep her principles about purity, even though it means losing the guy she's fallen in love with.

I love the ending of 8 Mile, where Eminem wins the competition (the "rap-off" for lack of a better name) ... and then accepts responsibility and heads back to his minimum wage job instead of partying and celebrating.

The final battle is key to showing that your characters journey was worth it, that they're a better person because of everything they just went through ... but they shouldn't escape that final battle unscathed.

Can you think of other final battle scenes in books or movies where the character "wins" but also loses?


  1. When I think of killer endings, the one that ALWAYS springs to mind is Francine Rivers' A VOICE IN THE WIND. I'd call this ending "she wins, even though she loses" rather than the other way around, though. After fighting all through the book to discover how to hang on to both her faith and her life, the heroine finally makes a decision to stand for God. She pays the price for it, but even as you cry over all she loses, you can't help but think that she did what was RIGHT. It wasn't a happy ending, but it was 100% satisfying because you knew the character had done what she must in order to be the woman you needed her to be.

    That said, I'm still a happy ending gal. =)

  2. Uh not really...not right now anyway.Stephanie, this book I just read, Roadside Assistance, is like a Christian Sarah Dessen!I love Sarah Dessen and I just got the same kinda vibe from it.The author is Amy Clipston.Anxiously waiting the results!Sierra

  3. Roseanna, I felt that way about Magdalene by Angela Hunt. I bawled like crazy at the end, but it was the RIGHT ending.

    Sierra, I'll have to check out Amy Clipston! Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. This is great!
    I'm catching up on all your posts since I've been away from the internet, and will be for awhile longer!
    These post about how to end your story are fantastic! Loving them!