The Final Scene

When I start a new novel, I write the ending first. Why? Because I think the final scene is, perhaps, the most important one in a novel. No, it doesn’t hook the reader or change everything for the main character. It’s important because it’s the last word the author gets and often, it’s the one that sticks with people most. How often do people tell you that they hated the seventeenth scene in a novel? I’m guessing not often. But how often do you hear people say they loved or hated an ending? I’m guessing a lot. People don’t read all 322 pages of your novel for the middle. They read for the end. Yes, I TOTALLY agree that they will never get to the end if the beginning sucks, but I’m going to leave beginnings for another time (aka, when I’m not tearing my hair out trying to write one!)

So what do you put in your final scene? In my opinion, you use it to close your most important plot line, which is usually the character’s inner or outer goal. For example, if your book is about a teen-aged magician who is determined to defeat the most evil wizard of all time, you would close with this character either achieving it or reflecting on his need to achieve it. But if your book is about a teen-aged magician who is determined to defeat the most evil wizard of of all time and you close with this teenager making out with some secondary character who helped find one piece of useless information in chapter five, well, you have a problem. Yeah, everyone loves “and then they kissed” endings, but by closing with a scene like this, you are basically saying that your character’s most important goal is NOT actually their most important goal. What you’re saying is that, although they want to defeat the most evil wizard of all time, kissing the chick from chapter five is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT.

Which leads me to my next question: Is it? If kissing the chick from chapter five REALLY is more important to your main character, then maybe your character’s arc is not what you think it is.

And that, my friends, is why I write the ending first!

Category: On Writing