Monday, February 24, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: The Ending

I had to think about what I could do for the last Philosophy of Writing blog. Where I will take the Monday slot I will attempt to figure out this week. Until then, having this week's topic be about the "Ending" was appropriate, at least in my mind.

Ending anything is a tough nut to crack, really. That goes for things beyond writing as well. Putting in a two weeks notice, saying goodbye to a loved one, watching your children go off the college, these are endings. Endings are bittersweet at best, tragic and depressing at worst. How we end something also speaks somewhat about who we are, the kind of character that we portray ourselves to be. So, with our reputation on the line, we ought to finish well.

Ending something well depends on a few factors. What kind of ending is it? A good one or a bad one? It is possible to have both be satisfying. What makes either ending good depends on the loose ends. The most satisfying endings are ones that feel complete. (All characters were accounted for, all villains received their just dessert, all heroes were welcomed home, etc.) If you want to read a good example of how to end a story, read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. The conflict between Fat Charlie and his brother Spider are all resolved at the end of the story concisely. Fat Charlie's courage and identity are resolved through his journey while Spider's own identity is given context as being a part of his brother Fat Charlie. Both characters are united with their ideal love interests and, like all screwball comedies, everyone gets what they want, despite them knowing it. All the loose ends are taken care of.

Another example of how to end a story is to make sure that the consequences of the character's actions are met. If a character, through the course of a story, kills another character, the action must be appropriately dealt with. If an item is stolen, it must be returned, or lost, or destroyed. The reason for this line of thinking lies in the weight of our choices. Bad choices yield negative prospects, good ones, better. Usually religious literature, or archetypal folk tales capture this element best. The prototype protagonist's decision quality always yields an outcome. This outcome not only affects those within his immediate sphere of influence, but also those that will descend from him/her/it. You always hear the logic at the end of African tales go, "and that is why Spider always..." It goes to show that back then, our actions meant something.

I have run out of time, but in the interest of scholarly things I want to continue this discussion next week.

To be concluded! (I promise this time.)


SW

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