Tweet of the Day: Writing Excuses 6.20: Endings
“Leave them wanting more.”
That is the key to a good ending. Which is counter intuitive when you think that we are talking about, well, THE END, at least of the story.
Enter the Sequel Hook.
The trick is balancing the readers expectations. When done well, a sequel hook can make the reader jump for joy, expecting in overwhelming glee the upcoming volume. Done poorly and…
“What the Hell? I spent X amount of hours reading this and is not over yet? I’ll never buy another book from this author again!” followed by the sound of said tome hitting the far wall of whatever room the reader finds himself in.
The key is to fulfill the premise of the story while at the same time basing your sequel hook on that premise.
- Premise- Princess Leia seeks help from Obin-Wan Kenobi to save the Rebel Alliance from the threat of the Death Star.
- Conclusion- Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star with a well aimed shot, assisted by a space cowboy/pirate and the Force.
- Sequel Hook- Darth Vader narrowly escapes Han Solo strafing run and flies off into space.
If the premise of the movie had been say, “Defeat the Empire”, then Darth Vader escape would have ruined the medal ceremony since the heroes failed their mission. But since the premise was “Save the Rebel Alliance” the heroes can bask in the glory of Princess Leia’s curls for a few seconds before the credits roll.
Implicit in the premise is that the war among the stars will continue, after all the Empire was not destroyed, only defeated. And we know that the big bad asthma sufferer in the dark cloak got away so there is a chance for more. In fact the villain is so compelling that we want to see more of him. His escape becomes one of those unanswered questions that the audience want answered (and will answer if the creator did not provide an answer).
Hence the part about, “Leaving them wanting more.”
One more thing, as tempting as it is to use a cliff hanger as both an ending and a sequel hook, save that for the second installment. After all, a cliff hanger means that the story is not finished and therefore the premise went unfulfilled.