Monday, March 3, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: The Ending (Part 2)

Last week we covered tying up loose ends and observed that the consequences of characters need to be faced. In continuation of last week's discussion, one of the final things one needs to know about endings is that endings require the weight of entropy, a feeling that things are winding down.

Classically, finding the entropy of a story winding down is referred to as the Denouement. Physics tell us that the universe will someday close back in on itself, due to the dissipation and vanishing of heat from the universe. They call this the "heat death." One day our sun will run out of energy and run itself down. Endings require the same kind of entropy. Therefore, a good ending always seems complete and final. Maybe this is why Japanese animation is so self-inflicting. The shows never end!

Where to end something, how that ending is determined, is an artform. Over time, there are things one discovers about their writing, devices that reveal themselves, that show when the action is winding down. Endings exist because of this awareness. This is also why ending a musical work on the tonic is so satisfying. Everything comes to an end, naturally.

Winding down plots can be achieved a few ways. Sometimes the ending can come when the hero has achieved a primary goal in the story, and follow the subsequent progression of fulfillment. The great task that a hero must achieve emphasizes their motivations, their dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Once the hero completes what he/she set out to do, the plot will naturally want to wind down into the final scene.

The discovery of a key plot, or the uncovering of hidden information, can lead to a finale as well. After a moment of self-discovery, relief and catharsis floods the narrative. Even in the event that the story ends unresolved, the character can still learn that what they thought they knew, they didn't know at all. The surprise and overwhelming feelings behind the discovery contribute to the immensity of the tale; the inescapable feeling that anything can happen. The enigma helps wind down the story, while also allowing for revisiting the plot for further discovery. I prefer endings like this for their modern edge. Prometheus the prequel to Ridley Scott's Aliens franchise has an ending that is unsettling, terrifying, but promising. Elizabeth Shaw's moment of discovery leads to a slew of other questions. The entropy of the current tale winds down thusly, but only so that a new journey can begin again. 

That is it for my lingering thoughts. I still haven't figured out what I will write about next, so I am as excited as you are to find out. Maybe if I go and drink some coffee I can peer into the upper heavens, or something like that. That, or have a seizure.


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