You can write the most awesome book ever, with a perfectly acceptable ending. And it will be a very nice book. But if you want something more than very nice, then don’t call it finished until the perfect ending comes to you.
By perfect I don’t mean tightly edited and polished. That goes without saying. What I mean is that you want that ending that gives you chills. The ending that makes you actually gasp when you think of it. Why? Because gasps and chills in the writer will translate to gasps and chills with the reader.
These endings don’t always come easily. Sometimes you can have a fantastic story but the ending alludes you, or it’s there but it just doesn’t feel right. I frequently struggle with this problem when I’m working on a new project. My most recently manuscript is complete in it’s first draft, but the ending is still only okay. So I’m waiting for the perfect ending to come.
Getting this perfect ending is not easy, but it it worth it. To illustrate, I am going to talk to you about the Disney movie, Moana.
I have two young children, so Moana has been on quite frequently in the last month or so. And amazingly enough, I’m pretty okay with that, because it is an excellent movie. And it has a PERFECT ending. I mean chills, every time. In fact, to date, I have not been able to catch my favorite scenes of the movie without a few sniffles as well.
So if you haven’t seen it, stop reading now and go watch it because:
The perfect ending of Moana almost didn’t happen. Writers at Disney struggled to recreate their princess mold and portray the Polynesian people and their mythologies with respect and authenticity. And they wrote and rewrote the end over and over where Moana faces off with Ta-Ka and is saved by Maui. This would have been acceptable. They already made a non-princess who was capable and removed the love interest aspect of the story, but it was far from perfect.
So the writers went back to the drawing board and asked themselves just what they were trying to achieve.
Setting out to further evolve the princess standard they’d started to change in Frozen, they knew they wanted a capable, realistic heroine. Someone that we all can aspire to, someone who fails and keeps trying. And they wanted her to be able to save herself. Relying on a demigod to fix everything in the end was not a good enough ending.
With this vision crystal clear, they set about refining the theme, refining the story, looking at it from all aspects.
Another strong theme of the story was respect for nature and how humans inevitable can wrong nature in their quest for power. It was in the merging of these themes, personal identity, feminine power, perseverance and preservation of nature, that the ending finally clicked into place.
And it is glorious.
Watching it twice a week with my children glorious.
So if your ending is good but not great, great but not perfect, take some time to brainstorm.
What are the themes in your story?
What are trying to say? What do you want your reader to come away with?
What has your protagonist struggled with from the beginning?
How does the final conflict reflect this struggle?
Keep looking at the big picture. Keep looking at the little nuances. Keep shifting the puzzle around until it clicks into place.
How will you know when it does?