Previously, time has been spent discussing the importance of the beginning of the story, in particular the first paragraph, the first page, and the first 10% of the story. What has not been considered is THE END.
During initial story development it is important for the protagonist and antagonist to have goals. That applies to the story as well, so while working the outline, details, and notes, a couple important questions to answer are:
♦ What are the main characters’ goals? (Protagonist, antagonist, and perhaps some of the others in the main group of eight.
♦ What is the story’s goal?
The entire story answers the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. As the very first paragraph starts everything rolling, the very last paragraph ends the journey, and needs to be as special as the first to leave the reader satisfied. This would be the “clincher,” a memorable closing, something that leaves an impression upon the reader and say succinctly what has been discussed during the preceding pages.
In Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” a pet mongoose saves his human child, Teddy, from a cobra. Kipling’s clincher was the mongoose’s soliloquy, “Oh, it’s you,” said he. (Referring the appearance of Teddy’s parents.) “What are you bothering for? All the cobras are dead; and if they weren’t I’m here.”
Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” TV series used the works of many writers whose stories are memorable because of the ending. One story was “To Serve Man.” Aliens come to earth and help eradicate disease and hunger. This reason for these benevolent acts is uncovered in the very last seconds of the story. A book the aliens dropped, “To Serve Man,” is a cook book.
In the short story, “Mariann and the Snake,” a teenage girl has a dream of something terrible coming out of her bedroom closet during the night. Sure enough, a mouse appears and sets the household in an uproar. The next night, another mouse appears, this time followed by a deadly snake. Everyone evacuates safely as the dad stands guard so the snake can not invade the rest of the house. Huddled on the neighbor’s yard across the street, a policeman comes to inform them that they can’t find the snake. (From “Stories for a Sleepless Night.”)
One last addition may be appropriate in some stories. If the writer has crafted characters in such a way that the reader becomes attached to them, it is appropriate for a chapter to follow the denouement, an “Epilogue” to let the reader know what happened to the main characters and some of the supporting ones as well. In the final scene of the “Harry Potter” series, we discover that Harry has married Ron’s sister, Ginny, and Ron has married Hermione. They have children that are now on the way to Hogwarts. Even Draco Malfoy has a family and seems to be at least on nodding terms with Harry; a powerful message about change and forgiveness in that very brief encounter. The characters have achieved their goal, and the author has revealed her goal.
Start with a snap. Carry on with a crackle. End with a pop.