Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Plot Out the Perfect Ending with Blake Snyder's Five-Step Finale

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She has a podcast/vlog at www.StoryworldFirst.com. You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. Tagboth (Tag for short) is a goldhorn dragon from Belfaylinn, a hidden fantasy realm on the western end of the Sargasso Sea. Jill is working on the first book of this tale for this year's Grow an Author series.

As I’ve been plotting out the second half of Onyx Eyes, I’ve struggled a bit with act three. What needs to happen in that final act? How can I plot that in advance if I’m not really certain how act two is going to play out?

Well, I’ve found a trick that helped me make that plan. I might not fully stick to it. In fact, I’m sure I won’t. Things always change, either when I’m writing the first draft or editing. But this trick helped me plot out a series of events that I know will work—at least in theory. It was enough to help me finish storyboarding my novel to the end, which gave me a strong map to use when I write my first draft.

This little trick came from Blake Snyder—the genius who wrote Save the Cat, a screenwriting book I have raved about here on Go Teen Writers many times before. He suggests you think of your big act-three ending in the terms of your hero “storming the castle.” This might look a little different depending on your hero’s goal. Your hero might be “storming the castle” to rescue someone or to stop the bad guy. Either way, this trick can help you.





Here’s how it works:

1. You write a scene where the hero comes up with a plan (either on his own or with his cohorts) to “storm the castle” and rescue someone who’s trapped or stop the bad guy who’s in hiding or do whatever is necessary to complete the overarching story goal.

2. You write a scene where the hero begins his plan. He (maybe with the help of his team, maybe on his own) breaches the castle walls. All is going perfectly, according to the plan made in the previous scene.

3. You then write a scene where the hero (and company?) arrive in the place where their friend is being held or where the bad guy is hiding or wherever they need to be to enact their final plan, only to discover . . . their friend (or the bad guy) is not there! And that’s not all. It’s also a trap! Your readers believe the story is over. Your hero has lost. The bad guys have won.

4. But wait. You write another scene. In this scene, the hero comes up with a new plan. And you connect this plan to the hero’s emotional story. He has to dig down deep and believe in himself or in the impossible, or he will trust others—or whatever lie it is that he needs to overcome. He will overcome it. And in doing so he will find that last bit of strength that will fuel him in one more, heroic attempt to win or save the world or stop evil or make that rescue.

5. Finally, you write a scene in which your hero has discovered the truth and overcome the lie that once kept him paralyzed. Now, as his very best self, he is able to execute a new plan and win. His friend is rescued. The bad guy is defeated. The world has been saved. Your hero has triumphed.

The end.

And the reader is satisfied.

Hooray!

So I used these five steps to storyboard the ending of Onyx Eyes. It gave me a structure where I previously had very little. Now I’m excited to write it and see how much it changes and how much it remains true to Snyder's five scenes.

I’ll let you know once I write them. ;-)


How do you write your endings? I’m curious if you create them as you go, surprising yourself? Or if you plot them out in advance so that you know exactly where you're taking the story. Share in the comments.

18 comments:

  1. My endings depend on the story. If I'm writing a contemporary of historical story or novel, I'll outline and research and have the details figured out. However, if I'm writing a mystery, I'll just write until I can't figure out who on earth did the crime, and then I'll give it to my brother and he'll figure it out and tell me, and then I'll write and revise the story. (Yay for crime-solving brothers!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this! I need a crime-solving brother! lol

      Delete
  2. I generally have the climactic moments of my books planned out well in advance. As in, when I start writing the opening scene, I almost always know exactly how the story is going to end. It can be useful to know what I'm working towards, but at the same time it can feel really daunting because I have a whole book to write before I get there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you. This is why writing the first draft is my least favorite part of the writing process. I love editing. I love having something to fix. It's getting all those words down for the first time that is my biggest challenge. :-)

      Delete
  3. This was brilliantly portrayed in Lady Moon. I'd say that my ending is needing to be worked on some more. I've never been fully satisfied with it, but it's getting closer to perfection. I'd say there's a measure of the unexpected, but it's hard for me to know because nobody has read that part yet...
    astoryspinner.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we authors do have trouble ever being fully satisfied with out stories. There is always something more to tweak. Still, I think you will come to a point where you feel good enough about it to let people read it. Then you'll be almost there. :-)

      Delete
  4. My character's battle is more internal than external. There's lots going on externally, of course, but the core of my climax is just her making a big decision. Any suggestions for how this structure works in this case?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, it's hard to give advice without knowing more, but I think that type of story works best when you give her several chances through the book to make the right choice, but each time she doesn't. And with each offer that comes, give her a different reason for saying no. And let those reasons build up upon each other as she grows as a person. Maybe first she's just too selfish. Then later, she's too critical, doesn't think she's good enough. Then later, she's just plain terrified. Then finally, she can make the right choice. Or maybe then it's too late. Maybe someone else stepped up. And maybe she'll need to choose something else. Or not. ;-)

      Delete
    2. That's very helpful! If you want to know more, the story revolves around someone with magic in a magicless world. Throughout the story, she struggles more and more to keep a lid on it as the public sees more and more, until she finally chooses to reveal herself. I'm not sure how to use these five scenes in this conflict, because they require that she make an attempt and fail first. I can't figure out how to do that.

      Delete
    3. Maybe she decides to do magic, but secretly or something--not really being her true self. And she fails because when she's hiding part of herself, she isn't as strong. So when she realizes she needs to be who she was created to be, she steps out with courage, this time accepting herself for who she is. And because of that, she is stronger than ever.

      Delete
  5. Sounds a lot like Captain Cold’s four step plan: “Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan."

    My ending is so bad right now that it threatens my entire series. I wrote the outline at a thirteen year old and now I’m seeing all the problems with it. Doesn’t help that I had decided to throw time travel into it so now there’s sci fi laws I have to follow too. My characters move from point A (the source of their problem) to point B, then point C. What I’m trying to do is get them to travel back to point B, then at the end go to point A to ultimately fix their problem. But I’m having trouble getting the characters to go to point B instead of fixing the problem right away and going to point A. Like, a good time travel story doesn’t have the time traveler just go back to the beginning of the story and stop the bad guy from doing the bad thing. It’s not that easy. But WHY isn’t it that easy? I’m trying to figure out what needs to stop my characters from taking the easy solution. Then afterwards, I need to find out how to actually fix the problem so the series can end right. Sigh...that’s what I get for writing an outline with the mind of a thirteen year old and trying to develop it into a more realistic story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don’t know the ins and outs of your story, so disregard anything I suggest that you need to. :) Here are my first thoughts. It’s going to depend on what type of time travel your story uses. What I imagined first was the type where each change made by time travelers creates a parallel universe. In that case, going back to stop the bad guy from doing the bad thing in the first place would only create a parallel universe where he is stopped, leaving him to run free in the original timeline—and for whatever reason, your protagonists can’t afford his plans succeeding in ANY timeline. Or, alternatively, they need to fix or preserve their original timeline, and creating a safe parallel timeline won’t fix the problems they have in their natural timeline.
      Or, you could have a type of time travel where any changes time travelers make end up being predetermined, and it’s their actions that fulfill the true version of history. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy a la Oedipus Rex. So going to Point A and stopping the bad guy somehow sets in motion the events that actually cause the plan they’re trying to stop in the first place! So they have to try something else.
      There are other types of time travel too. Think about how that factors into your baddie’s plan. Think about the rules, restrictions, and consequences of time travel. That should give you some ideas as to why the “easy solution” would cause more problems than it solves, or is otherwise unrealistic in some way.

      Another interesting option is to actually have your protagonists think of and try the easy solution. Just go for it! Then have it fail or backfire in some horrifying way and cause a greater problem that will be more difficult to solve.

      Just some thoughts I had. Good luck with your story!

      Delete
    2. Maybe they need an object or person to help them solve the problem, but when they get there, the object or person isn't there, so they are forced to go to the next point as they look for the person or object or for something else that can help them solve the problem. Just try to set it up so that when they go right away to point A, something isn't right, which forces them to take a longer route to save the day.

      Delete
  6. The Five-Step Finale looks really helpful. I try to figure out my ending—or at least have a decent idea of it—before I write too much of the story, but sometimes it doesn't come easy. But for me, knowing the ending helps so many other aspects of the story. Really, the rest of the story up to the ending depends on how I it's going to end. Because, in many ways, it’s all about building up to the ending and delivering that final punch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, David. It's so helpful to know your ending so you can work towards it. When you can do that, it makes your final punch so much more powerful.

      Delete
  7. At the climax of my story the MC finally sees that she's destroying herself, but i don't know where to go from there. Maybe her recovery? She's dealing with more internal issues then physical, so I'm trying to figure out how to end the novel. I haven't exactly started the book, but I like to plan the ending and the climax before I begin. I'm really stuck. :\ Any advice on how to go about this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, depends on how she is destroying herself and what her story goal happens to be. If it's because she's doing something destructive, then perhaps there is a better way to accomplish the same goal. Maybe she needs to rely on others or work with a partner to succeed. Or maybe she was using her powers incorrectly, so she needs to learn the right way to do the thing so she no longer harms herself.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for your help! Her goal is to somehow "improve herself", but she then realizes that her way of improvement (that isn't ven needed) is actually killing herself. I did think of that and was trying to come up with someone that I can add to the story to support her and help her reach her goal in a healthy way (she has an eating disorder). She's going to eventually turn to God for help because all else fails, except for her good friend who helps her along the way.
      "Or maybe she was using her powers incorrectly, so she needs to learn the right way to do the thing so she no longer harms herself."—Exactly!

      Delete

Home