Stuck on An Ending

Lafayette

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I'm stuck on a an ending because the ideas I come up with seem to be contrived. I'm trying avoid this tactic.

In my story, the villainess and heroine in a battle of magic give each other what appears to be killing blows. The heroine has a staff that contain a number of non-aggressive properties one being healing. The problem is I have already established that the healing isn't 100% or instantaneously in a previous encounter and that the staff took the brunt of the attack thus saving her life. However she was bedridden for a while.

The killing blow she gives the villainess is from an outside source she is forbidden to use and not from the staff.

I thought about having the boy friend heal her with a sword he has but doesn't know is magical. I could go back and hint at this, but this sounds contrived and lame.

I also think I could kill off the heroine, but don't want to put a bad taste in my readers mouths by disappointing them. I'm not totally against downer endings if they have a point to be made. My theme is glory. I'm not sure if saying glory has a price to pay is good enough to satisfy the readers..

I have also thought of having her friends contacting the heroine's superior and have him heal her. This sounds a little complicated and maybe contrive.

I welcome any suggestions, comments, and/or questions.
 

Toby Frost

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I think almost anything can happen provided that you obey the rule of Chekov's gun and it's been suitably foreshadowed. My instinctive feeling is that the heroine should succeed, but at a price. Is this the kind of world where limbs are lost? Could she lose something else, like magical powers or a friend, or be forced to do something dubious - calling on forbidden power, perhaps - to win?

Alternatively, one way of looking at these kind of problems is to take it back another step and ask whether what you've got is actually necessary. Do they both have to strike each other with killing blows at all? If you're some way away from writing this bit of the story, I'd suggest not thinking about it until you get there (or at least not for a while), as things may change along the way.
 

Lafayette

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Thanks for responding Toby.

My instinctive feeling is that the heroine should succeed, but at a price. Is this the kind of world where limbs are lost? Could she lose something else, like magical powers or a friend, or be forced to do something dubious - calling on forbidden power, perhaps - to win?

I been kinda thinking along these lines and it may go along with the theme.

Alternatively, one way of looking at these kind of problems is to take it back another step and ask whether what you've got is actually necessary. Do they both have to strike each other with killing blows at all?

I have been thinking that perhaps the conflagration could throw the villainess into another dimension.


If you're some way away from writing this bit of the story, I'd suggest not thinking about it until you get there (or at least not for a while), as things may change along the way.

Actually, I've been doing this because I'm bad at making story lines.
I am trying to avoid the mistakes I made in my first novel and not be lame or too predictable.
 

DLCroix

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Hi. Hope this help.

Try a mirror or something that reflects and allows your heroine to return evil to her enemy.

Place the final battle on the brink of an abyss. So your heroine does not need powers; you just need the villain to slip and bon voyage. Also the fall metaphor is always powerful when it comes to defeating a villain.

Put the battle near dawn. Such that if the Sun comes up, the villain loses her powers. And for her sake, better that have an umbrella at hand. And dark glasses.

Place the battle in a forest where there are poisoned flowers or trees.

I had thought of some kind of amulet or necklace that would be the source of evil's power (and by taking it away, bye), but that would require announcing it beforehand so that Chekov doesn't get upset. It's actually about avoiding the typical Deux ex Machina

Try the fire.

Try with the villain being trapped forever in the same grave or evil box where she planned to lock the heroine.
 

Hugh

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As the villainess expires something is released from her that heals the heroine: perhaps some form of spirit or shamanic entity that the villainess has bound to her against its will (in order to increase her own powers) and is released by her dying.
 

DLCroix

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As the villainess expires something is released from her that heals the heroine: perhaps some form of spirit or shamanic entity that the villainess has bound to her against its will (in order to increase her own powers) and is released by her dying.
Well the truth is that it is an excellent idea! Perhaps the source of her power was a spirit locked in her body, as you say. An adequate metaphor about the beings who, when trapped, cannot receive the light, which in turn is the source of all life. More or less what happens with the genie of the lamp.
 

Joshua Jones

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There are quite a few different ways you could resolve this, and the previously stated ideas are all solid. I'd like to move this a step back and discuss the dual killing blow issue. Take this with a significant portion of salt, but something doesn't quite sit right with me from a concept level. Granted, you may be able to pull this off, and my unease could well be from the copious quantities of bacon I ate this morning, but my instinct is that this would be more compelling if the potentially fatal blow was a direct result of the protagonist's attack rather than the antagonist's. This would establish the cost of executing such a forbidden attack, providing a logic to its being anathematized (assuming this isn't already established).

To your actual question, though, another option for the source of her restoration/cost is the loss of her staff. Say her fatal injury is being slowly transformed into a Wendigo or some such mindless, malevolent being. Could the staff absorb this, permanently tainting the staff but saving the protagonist? Or perhaps you could have her injury/condition incurable, but she is able to prevent it from spreading through the perpetual use of a spell, and book 2 features her weakened from having to maintain this?

The point I'm hoping to make is there are many possibilities, and even more if you make the injury self inflicted. Ultimately, it's your story, so feel free to adopt any or none of the suggestions here.
 

paranoid marvin

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Getting a good ending has eluded even some of the greatest writers so you are not alone! As has been mentioned, try to foreshadow or at least make the ending seem to make some kind of sense.

There should be a price to pay for the use of a forbidden source. How about the boyfriend transferring his 'life force ' into the her staff in order to 'recharge' it so that he can heal her; but at the cost of his own life.

The heroine survives, glory is achieved, but was it worth the cost of the loss of her love?
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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When you say the theme is glory, do you mean "glory isn't everything" or "what defines glory?" or "glory is what the heroine or assorted characters have been striving for"? Or something else? There's a lot you can do with the concept of glory, and depending on which it is, that can drastically alter the ending you want.
 

Lafayette

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As the villainess expires something is released from her that heals the heroine: perhaps some form of spirit or shamanic entity that the villainess has bound to her against its will (in order to increase her own powers) and is released by her dying.
This is giving me another idea that may tie up a loose end. The villainess has a parrot that has a habit of echoing what she says i.e. going to die going to die. Perhaps when the antagonist is put out of action the parrot can become someone who can heal the protagonist.
 

Lafayette

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As has been mentioned, try to foreshadow or at least make the ending seem to make some kind of sense.

One of the ideas I'm kicking around is having her boyfriend (a renegade noble) dub her a Dame for her bravery and sacrifice as she is dying. As he is dubbing her his sword magically heals her. Of course I'll have to go back somewhere in my story and hint that it may be magical.

There should be a price to pay for the use of a forbidden source. How about the boyfriend transferring his 'life force ' into the her staff in order to 'recharge' it so that he can heal her; but at the cost of his own life.

This is a good idea which I will think about some more.

There is a price to pay. The heroine has a disease that can kill her if she uses warrior magic which she has done and is affecting her.


The heroine survives, glory is achieved, but was it worth the cost of the loss of her love?
 

Lafayette

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Hi. Hope this help.

Try a mirror or something that reflects and allows your heroine to return evil to her enemy.

Place the final battle on the brink of an abyss. So your heroine does not need powers; you just need the villain to slip and bon voyage. Also the fall metaphor is always powerful when it comes to defeating a villain.

Put the battle near dawn. Such that if the Sun comes up, the villain loses her powers. And for her sake, better that have an umbrella at hand. And dark glasses.

Place the battle in a forest where there are poisoned flowers or trees.

I had thought of some kind of amulet or necklace that would be the source of evil's power (and by taking it away, bye), but that would require announcing it beforehand so that Chekov doesn't get upset. It's actually about avoiding the typical Deux ex Machina

Try the fire.

Try with the villain being trapped forever in the same grave or evil box where she planned to lock the heroine.
These are good ideas, but it would involve a major overhaul of the story and I'm not that ambitious right now. If I have to I have to.
 

sule

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I agree with all the advice about committing to proper foreshadowing. Whether your ending works for readers isn't necessarily about what happens but rather how it fulfills promises you made earlier in the novel or pays off on the tools you established earlier in the story. If you're worried about being too obvious with foreshadowing there are a number of ways you can go about it that feel less obvious.

One way to foreshadow a power or ability something has is to introduce that power or ability by having it serve a (different from your ending) purpose in an earlier part of the story. If done well, it tells the reader that this power is available without making it obvious that it will come up later in the ending. The term I've heard used by other authors is that the best endings are "surprising yet inevitable" because they make use of something that the reader already knew about but hadn't fully anticipated being used.

Another thing you could do is "hang a lantern on it" by making the reader aware that the characters don't know everything that the magic can do. Just earlier setting it up, have a character notice that their magic or item doesn't do things exactly how they anticipated or is "acting up" that is symptomatic of the later ability you use in the ending.

So basically, just write the ending that you think feels the most satisfying, then go back and make sure that you properly foreshadow that ending.
 

Lafayette

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When you say the theme is glory, do you mean "glory isn't everything" or "what defines glory?" or "glory is what the heroine or assorted characters have been striving for"? Or something else? There's a lot you can do with the concept of glory, and depending on which it is, that can drastically alter the ending you want.
In my story the heroine desires glory, but has a narrow view of what glory is and it gets her in trouble.
 

Lafayette

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I agree with all the advice about committing to proper foreshadowing. Whether your ending works for readers isn't necessarily about what happens but rather how it fulfills promises you made earlier in the novel or pays off on the tools you established earlier in the story. If you're worried about being too obvious with foreshadowing there are a number of ways you can go about it that feel less obvious.

One way to foreshadow a power or ability something has is to introduce that power or ability by having it serve a (different from your ending) purpose in an earlier part of the story. If done well, it tells the reader that this power is available without making it obvious that it will come up later in the ending. The term I've heard used by other authors is that the best endings are "surprising yet inevitable" because they make use of something that the reader already knew about but hadn't fully anticipated being used.

Another thing you could do is "hang a lantern on it" by making the reader aware that the characters don't know everything that the magic can do. Just earlier setting it up, have a character notice that their magic or item doesn't do things exactly how they anticipated or is "acting up" that is symptomatic of the later ability you use in the ending.

So basically, just write the ending that you think feels the most satisfying, then go back and make sure that you properly foreshadow that ending.

I will reread your advice and study it. Thank you.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I think maybe you are trying too hard to come up with an original ending, but perhaps in the process thinking too much about other stories (written by others or written by you) and not enough about this one. The thing I would advise is to look through your story from the very beginning and see what unusual possibilities already exist within the plot, background, and characters as you have written them to this point, and then choose one of those possibilities, write it out and see how it goes. Keep looking at what you already have until you find something that works.

Because originality is good, don't get me wrong, but writing something that evolves organically out of the story is even better (and actually quite likely to be original anyway).

What I am saying is this: you are asking a lot of us who don't even know the ins and outs of your story, "What should I do?" But if the story has been well thought out to this point, then the answer to your question is already there somewhere in what you have already written. Some part of you already knows it and has left you clues to what it should be. No one else can tell you what it ought to be, because no one else knows the story as well as you do.
 

Lafayette

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I'd like to move this a step back and discuss the dual killing blow issue. but my instinct is that this would be more compelling if the potentially fatal blow was a direct result of the protagonist's attack rather than the antagonist's. This would establish the cost of executing such a forbidden attack, providing a logic to its being anathematized (assuming this isn't already established).

Basically, this is what I have happening.

To your actual question, though, another option for the source of her restoration/cost is the loss of her staff.

Loosing her staff I haven't thought of. Although, in the scuffle it's knock from her hand. It's a possibility.

Say her fatal injury is being slowly transformed into a Wendigo or some such mindless, malevolent being. Could the staff absorb this, permanently tainting the staff but saving the protagonist?

This would stretch the story too far and would not be a climax.

Or perhaps you could have her injury/condition incurable, but she is able to prevent it from spreading through the perpetual use of a spell, and book 2 features her weakened from having to maintain this?

She already has a disease that will get worse unless she abstains from employing certain magics.


The point I'm hoping to make is there are many possibilities, and even more if you make the injury self inflicted. Ultimately, it's your story, so feel free to adopt any or none of the suggestions here.

Thank you for your suggestions.
 

Lafayette

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I think maybe you are trying too hard to come up with an original ending,

I understand that there are no more original ideas. What counts is how you tell them. What I'm trying to do is avoiding lame or contrived ending.

The thing I would advise is to look through your story from the very beginning and see what unusual possibilities already exist within the plot, background, and characters as you have written them to this point, and then choose one of those possibilities, write it out and see how it goes. Keep looking at what you already have until you find something that works.

This seems like a good idea. I have been doing some of this already, but not enough. Time to do more.

Because originality is good, don't get me wrong, but writing something that evolves organically out of the story is even better (and actually quite likely to be original anyway).

This tactic makes more sense than what I been trying to achieve.

What I am saying is this: you are asking a lot of us who don't even know the ins and outs of your story, "What should I do?" But if the story has been well thought out to this point,

It hasn't. I'm bad at writing story lines. Is there a cure for this?

then the answer to your question is already there somewhere in what you have already written. Some part of you already knows it and has left you clues to what it should be.

I haven't thought of this, but my instincts are saying you are correct.

No one else can tell you what it ought to be, because no one else knows the story as well as you do.

So true so true.
 

Joshua Jones

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Thank you for your suggestions.
Quite welcome!

To chime in on a point you made elsewhere, making an ending which is not "lame or contrived" is going to be a matter of how its executed and foreshadowed more than the ending itself. Yeah, you may want to avoid a deus ex machina, but even a literal one (such as a god[dess] descending and reviving her) can be a solid ending if you already established the gods and their involvement with your protagonist.

So, to echo Teresa, see what's already in your story, resolves character arcs, and helps draw your character into a fuller understanding of the theme, and make that your ending. Or, do what many are doing now and leave it at a cliffhanger for a sequel!

(Ok, seriously, don't leave it at a cliffhanger, please!)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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@Lafayette

Suggestions - with some caveats

Moves on to another existence - a bit Harpy Pewter, but then again he went back.

Kill her off - You'll have to be careful who takes up the narrative though.

A coming together of all the other magicians to heal - and then punish for the naughty use of the bad stuff - She can regain her powers for the next book - It would/could make for a goodly portion of that book.

Co-existence with the boyfriend. Her body dies, but she lives on as a second consciousness in him. All sorts of follow up books to follow.

Powers/existence transferred to the nearest virgin. Could be the end of this book or the beginning of the next.

The old "super being/god" steps in to make everything happy ever after. He was testing her and she passed/failed.

She steps out of the shower and it's all been a dream - Need to get a big hat for the finale.

Hope I helped

Tein
 
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