Ending Short Stories

In correlation to my previous post regarding my frustration with the lack of plot in my novel, I found this post at Foetal Positions very interesting.

When writing a story, I often find that knowing my ending acts as a good guide in navigating what will happen in the middle.  I have always written short stories with an ending in mind, which is partly why I’ve found starting my novel without having a vague outline of the ending so arduous. I think this post brings up some excellent points that can be attributed to any story, short or long, especially regarding ‘theme’.

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone stress the importance of a theme in a story. In Jennifer Fallon‘s MasterClass Series, she pointed out the importance of, and how to identify, your theme:

Think about the dreaded question “So… what’s your story about?”

Do you start by saying “Well… it’s set on this world where…”

If you say that, then your world building is taking over the story.

If you start by saying “It’s about a boy (girl, dragon, sentient flu virus, etc) who…”, then your characters are probably driving your story.

Ask me what the Seconds Sons Trilogy is about, and I won’t tell you it’s about a world with two suns, or a boy who sets out to destroy a religion, I will tell you it’s about deciding if the end justifies the means.

That, you see, is my theme.

The theme is what carries the story along and steers characters to their destiny. Whether it be grief, good vs evil, journeys, betrayal, peace and war, coming of age, heroism, or love, a theme is what leaves you at the end of a great story reflecting what you have learnt and thinking about how all the pieces came together to make a point about something.

Check out the full ‘Ending Short Stories’ post below:

it’s a process that leaves me feeling like a camel in a tropical rainforest: confused. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories lately, as a break from “novelling” and writing poetry, though it’s the end of my school year, which means I can barely motivate myself to do anything.  But laziness aside, I struggle to end short stories. It’s not that I drag them out — I fiddle with the ending, the actual words on the page, and the way it closes. Shou … Read More

via foetal positions

~storytelling nomad~

13 comments on “Ending Short Stories

  1. Yes, I believe theme is very important and it’s something that I am only recently paying attention to. That being said, I saw on a youtube video the other day where knowing your ending before you even being writing is a wonderful idea as it gives you hints to your theme and gives you something to write towards. Your characters hould all have goals, wants, and need and the ending will stem from/being affected by those.

  2. Considering how much of a novice the writing community would probably consider me, I was mildly surprised that I could answer the questions from the post with proper responses, so I would say that it is definitely a very helpful idea. Something that I have started trying to do, is break your story apart by sections, whether by how many chapters you want in a novel, or by how many page breaks you want in a short story. Number them on a blank, and then fill in the general idea for each one (i.e. Bob walks to market and gets shot at, etc.). Then once you have your whole list then look at each one in turn, decide what extras to bring by writing bullets under each section (i.e. -describe the busy street he walks -observe other people and the things they are doing, etc.). I haven’t made it very far with this yet as I’ve been really busy with work and family, but I’m feeling relatively hopeful about it.

    • My story is still far too premature to do any of that, but when I know more I’d love to be able to break it down like you suggest. It’s great that you’ve got something to work with and are feeling hopeful about it, and I understand about work and family commitments. I’ve just started working at the snow and with getting up at 5:30am and working outside all day, by the time I get home at 6:30 I’m often too exhausted to do anything! I’d like to know how people find the time to fit it all in.

  3. My inner philsiopher is wondering if theme and character(s) are mutually exculsive. I think my novels consist of both, doesn’t everyone else’s?

    • I’d say so, but perhaps some people don’t pay enough attention to their theme and so their story ends up a bit disjointed? You’d think that your characters would indicate your theme and vice versa. All the same, as I am so early into the writing process I so far have few characters and no theme, which is something I’d like to work on.

      • I think that a cleverly written story will have both like you said. I think both character and theme have to fuel each other to make it an interesting read. I’m glad you wrote this as it’s giving me something to think about.

  4. Ending short stories, I find, is the most challenging part of the process. I seemt to have dozens of half-finished short stories floundering around because I find it so hard to tie up the loose ends! I think that’s because short stories are more often than not written to portray a snippet, a moment of life, as opposed to recounting a detailed plot…Hence the difficulty in finding a powerful/touching ending.

    • Ah this is so true. Short stories are so different to novels, and I find their endings are so important for the reasons you mention. They really are just snippets or moments, and the endings are so often the essence of the entire story.

  5. When you say that you usually have your ending in mind, do you mean that you see just a particular scene in your mind’s eye or do you mean you already have the outline of say…the whole last chapter in detail?

    • I mean that I know where the story is heading. It doesn’t have to be detailed or even a particular scene, but I’ll know how I want the story to finish. Whether it be with a single line or a twist or the fate of a character, I’ll know how I want it to end. Sometimes that changes as I am writing, occasionally to something better than the original plan, but I find it gives me direction and a point to work towards. As for the ending of this damn novel…still unresolved!

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