Monday, 11 October 2010

The End

As part of my sister's English Degree, she has just embarked on a course in Creative Writing.  She is writing her first ever short story. 

And she asked me this : '

I've noticed a lot of your endings have twists.  Is this specific to the genre or do all short stories need some sort of twist at the end?'

Now, I have never been formally trained in anything like this, so have just picked things up along the way,  I looked through my short stories.  A lot of them do have twists - more than I thought, to be honest.  But not all.  And her question made me think a lot.  Does a short story need a twist at the end to make it a viable entity?  Instinctively, I think, no.  For me, an ending needs to leave the reader with a thought or a feeling that lasts beyond the final word.  Leaves them with something.

Then I thought, do the different formats : Flash, Short Story, Novella, Novel, do they all have different requirements so far as endings go, commensurate with their differing word-counts?

What do you reckon, people?


  1. Well, all story climaxes have some sort of turn to them. I think that with short stories, the tendency is to tightened everything up, thus a turn of the climax (which is often right near if not right at the end of a short work) becomes tightened up to just a twist.

    Though I do think it's a little overused, especially the "gotcha" sort of twist... "it was all [this situation that you would never have guessed from earlier clues! ha ha!]" instead of having a real conflict resolution.

  2. Over-used it is, Clair, and I was a little embarrassed to see almost all my stories have them. Although, can't think of hardly any being intentional, they just sort of turned out like that. The favourite endings in my stories are 'Cold' and 'Stars' where the reader, hopefully, has been sucked into the world of the mc and is left at the end, looking through their eyes.

    Mind you, you can't beat a good jaw-dropper like, in cinematic terms, 'The Usual Suspects' or 'The Shawshank Redemption'.

  3. I think what everyone wants at the end of the story is "Damn, that was a good one!"

    How you get to that point can vary. The one used the most is the surprised slap-in-the-face kind of ending. But it's not necessary. There are other endings.

  4. Ian--I was actually about to mention 'Cold' and 'Stars' as twist-free pieces with excellent endings. I'd put 'The Argument Bunny' and 'By the Dim and Flaring Lamps' in that category to--they have climatic endings, but not a "oh shit--you thought everything was one way but it totally wasn't."

    As for twist endings generally, I think they can work nicely in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. But personally I'm trying to reduce the number of twists in my pieces--I'm not very good at them and I think they sometimes distract from the reason why I'd decided write the story in the first place.

  5. Okay. Every story has a twist ending if you define a twist as the protagonist is changed _in some way_ by the end of the story -- note the "by". "By" the end does not necessarily mean "at" the end. Thus the twist could be working from the start or the middle or the end or throughout the piece. But if the protagonist has not changed a bit by the end of the tale, then you have a still life not a story.

  6. Post Note: I erred (Isn't that a great word "erred"? Sounds like a dog with a piece of liver caught in his throat.) I meant:if the protagonist is changed _in the mind or perception of the reader_ by the end of the piece.

  7. B.R. - As ever, the voice of reason . . .

    Chris - Know what you mean about reducing the twist endings. Am veering that way myself, Think I'm heading for what might be termed 'mood' pieces, though I'm not sure. Never been sure about any of this stuff, to be honest. I just write :)

    AJ - That change thing. That's the one. Movement. You've got it there, mate. A movement towards, a movement into the darkness. Bang on, mate.

    Thanks, lads. Each one of these little discussions brings me a little nearer towards understanding what the hell I'm doing with this writing lark :)