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How to End Your Story

Hello everyone. I've decided to start a blog, partly because it sounds amusing, and partly because I want to remind myself of everything I should be doing while writing. This blog will dispense whatever sage advice I happen to have to offer, along with the side tangents and other thoughts that come to mind while writing these things. I will have space at the end of each blog for a more condensed version of the advice, for the sake of clarity and really making sure I get all this stuff. I'm still working on making it look pretty, and I probably won't have it super fancy until sometime in January. Let's face it, I'm never going to get around to it.
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How to End Your Story

Posted February 26th, 2016 at 10:01 PM by Bardothren

Salutations! Well, this makes the second time in a row I nearly forgot to post. Well, let's rectify that.

In case you missed it, I suffered a teensy mental breakdown in the form of Employment Mafia. Between making it too much work and stress on myself and the additional stress the games failing made for me, I decided it was healthiest to drop the whole thing altogether, and though it still grieves me to have done so, I only regret the disappointment it has brought to those involved in the game... especially Gunner and Kiyo. Compensation is in order for you two. (doubly so for gunner, since, you know, I kinda tricked you into killing yourself in Doof).

Enough mafia talk. I'm in Chicago right now, living the good life for just a brief moment. I almost have my second story for my capstone project complete, and the portable photometer I'm designing is in the debug phase. School's going smoothly and all, so yeah. Life's alright.

Enough of that. Time to end the three-parter on story progression. Kind of a no brainer.

How to End Your Story

To begin, I would like to analyze the difference between Code Geass and Death Note. There's a handful of similarities between them - an idealistic young man in high school setting out to oppose the broken social system he lives in with the assistance of a neutral, enigmatic source of power. Along the way, he must use his wits to overcome the obstacles... blah blah blah, you get it. This time, I'm most interested in the ending, as this one way they greatly diverge.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR DEATH NOTE AND CODE GEASS AHEAD. Oh, also, some Studio Ghibli films and Cowboy Bebop. If you haven't seen them, then for God's sake, stop reading and start watching!

Let's start with Death Note. I'm sure I'm not alone in my disappointment in the final arc of the show, and it's all because of L. He served as a counterweight to Kira's genius in a way that Near and Mello cannot achieve. However, the ending achieves emotional impact through the reactions of Kira's coworkers in learning his guilt and Kira's death at the hands of Ryuk. There's no clear resolution to the story; it's not like everything was solved overnight.

Now let's look at Code Geass' ending. I would say the final arc holds up better than Death Note's, because unlike Death Note, the appeal of Code Geass isn't tied up in the interplay between two characters. The show is less a matching of wits and more a story of Lelouch overcoming the obstacles before him. Ultimately, I like the ending of Code Geass better, for Lelouch's death is both tragic and heroic - heroic in that he has achieved his dreams and tragic that only a handful will appreciate him for it.

I like Code Geass better... until that god-awful 'wrap it all up' scene at the end. I was absolutely disgusted when I saw it for the first time and my mind hasn't changed a bit. Of course they had to give every character a cliche, story-book ending. Of course they had Jeremiah on an orange farm, of course they had Villetta pregnant in the kitchen. Ugh, it's disgusting! Absolutely revolting!

Sorry about that, I still rage at that ending. Now, what can we take away from this comparison? From Death Note, we learn that to make the final moment meaningful, you must maintain the main appeal of the original story. The story weakened when L died because he was such an integral part of the story's tension. However, in Code Geass, the villains play a less important role, as suitable obstacles for Lelouch's genius to triumph. As such, they could be readily replaced once defeated. From Code Geass, we learn that giving everyone the storybook ending will not leave your audience satisfied. All that happiness and perfection make the previous suffering seem negligible and meaningless.

An excellent example of story ending lies in Studio Ghibli's films. I challenge you to find one that has a completely perfect ending. Take Spirited Away: Chihiro and her parents missed an entire year. Or Princess Mononoke, and the faint traces of the scar on his arm. Porco Rosso and its refusal to finish the story. Kiki's Delivery Service and... hmm... let me get back to you on that one. You get the point.

Alright, moving on.

Summary

Endings don't have to be 100% resolved. In fact, the best ones tend to leave the reader wondering. That's not to say you should leave the plot's outcome completely shrouded in mystery; rather, there should be lasting consequences or a few lingering questions that remain afterwards. Resolution is about a balance between concluding the story you are working on and allowing the narrative's overall story to continue. Lives rarely end at the conclusion of a story; they move on, with new narratives to tell.

In thinking about your ending, here are some questions to keep in mind:

Are there real, lasting consequences to your characters' actions? Did their choices matter? (I'm looking at you, Mass Effect 3!)
What is the main appeal of my narrative, and how does the ending play into that?
How has my narrative changed through my story?
Do my characters have lingering doubts? Doubt is absolutely wonderful from a storytelling perspective.
How does the ending change one's perspective about the beginning? Think RWBY for an excellent example of retrospective conclusions. Does it play into the tone from the beginning, contradict it, or change it entirely?

There are some endings trickier to pull off than others. For example: did X character live? Take Cowboy Bebop. We don't know what happens to Spike, and that's fascinating? But compare that to... say... actually, I'm drawing a blank here. Uhm... yeah, I got nothing. Point is, there's a fine line between confusion and intrigue.

I can't exactly demonstrate this one, just point you to some good examples. And that's all I have to say about that.

EDIT: aw crap, missed the day by one freaking minute! AAAAAGH!
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  1. Old Comment
    Salzorrah's Avatar
    Quote:
    I only regret the disappointment it has brought to those involved in the game... especially Gunner and Kiyo. Compensation is in order for you two. (doubly so for gunner, since, you know, I kinda tricked you into killing yourself in Doof).
    :(
    Posted February 27th, 2016 at 2:32 AM by Salzorrah Salzorrah is offline
 

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