A month or so ago, I finished reading Plot & Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell.
While I highly recommend this book to any aspiring writer, the most helpful part – for me – was an exercise that can be used to brainstorm a really good ending. Now, for those of you who don’t know, I struggle with endings. That was one of the weakest parts of my first manuscript, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Mr. Bell suggests that you come up with 10 different endings for your story, each more unique than the last. At first, I had a hard time breaking with the ending I’d already thought up. After all, it seemed good enough. However, when I really started to think about all the different things that truly could happen at that point in the story, I was suddenly able to break through mental blocks that I hadn’t even realize existed.
I started thinking about all the possible outcomes of the final battle scene, no matter how bizarre or anticlimactic. What if the antagonist escaped and was never apprehended? What if the protagonist was captured? What if she wasn’t captured but was framed instead? What if the cost of her survival is the loss of her gift? What if the cost is the loss of her sanity? What if her gift can be used as a weapon? What if she kills the antagonist? And so on.
Thinking of Orson Scott Card’s advice (in his book on characters) to take your story ideas and give everything a little twist, I twisted different pieces in different directions as I brainstormed. And you know what? It worked. I came up with a much better – and much less cliched – ending than I started with.
Now it’s your turn! Let me know if you find this technique as helpful as I did, or if you use a completely different method. I’d love to hear about it.