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writing How Write Good?, Part 3: Stress Tests and Endings

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The beginning of THE END is the best place to begin THE END, because if you read THE END from the beginning of the beginning of THE END to the end of the end of THE END, you will arrive at the end. -Lemony Snicket 


Hey!... what? Where was I? Where was I?! Uhm… I took a sabbatical, went to find myself, studied on my head in the mountains of Mongolia: that sort of thing.


Okay, okay. I got a new job, this time doing what I went to college for, and I lost track of time. A lot of time. I posted the second part of this in June of last year! It’s almost June of this year!


Anyway, you’re here for more writing stuff, right? Well, I know what you’re thinking: Juju! You’ve already yakked for hours about linear narrative, and you’ve even talked about story props and proper skiing techniques. What else is there to talk about? Well, since we talked about starting the story, and continuing the story, what about ending the story


Consider this: You, the reader, have found a book that is the beat-all, end-all to every book you've ever read before. The characters are great, the plot is intriguing, you've cried twice, and now, at the end, at the very end!--it sucks. Like, crash and burn, third degree burn, burnie mac but without the comedy. You've spent the past ten weeks of your life slowly slogging through this giant book, biting your nails to nubs in concern for the leading heroine, heart pounding at the peril of the hero in the hands of the villian, and now what? You feel like you've wasted your life, right?


"It's not about the end, it's about the journey." 


That's Book Sacrilege (BS) and you know it! It's always been about the end! You wasted spent ten weeks of your life leading up to learning about that end! You're legitimately mad! 


I think you can see where I'm going with this. Y'all smart. ;) So you don't want your players to spend ten weeks, or even ten minutes, on your game just to see that it ends up nowhere. They've skied down that mountain slope only to end up in a disappointed heap at the bottom. Oops..... (wince) 


So, I guess what you're saying is:




The first thing to do is to relax. You're not alone. Every author has had this moment. I can name a million quotes about how the story never really ends, you just choose to stop telling it, yadda yadda yadda. But I won't, because we're talking video game stories. And ending them right. And time's short. 


Secondly, we have to understand a little about conflict progression and resolution. Any Engish / Lit teacher will tell you that stories usually follow this pattern, because... it works. 


I would ask that, for a more detailed view, please look at the nice words and nicer pictures on this website. But I'll give you the most basic of basic outlines, for your viewing pleasure.


First of all, we got the beginning. In the beginning, you have CONFLICT PROGRESSION. There's a problem for the character, and it's getting worse. Let's use my favorite Shakespeare play for reference: Taming of the Shrew. What's our conflict, and its progression? Easy: All these dudes want to get their grubby palms on Bianca, but to do that they have to find someone to marry her mean-tempered, incredibly smart, bossy SHREW of a sister, Kate. Now, no man in his right mind is gonna marry her! There's our problem. 


Second, we have what's called the middle, where we lead up to THE CLIMAX. Now, the climax is the highest peak in the story where everything goes to HFIL by falling off Snake Way, so to speak. In our example, this would be the wedding between Kate and Petruchio, and his "taming" of her. Basically, she ends up marring a guy even crazier than she is and this is a bit of a problem for her.


Last, we have the RESOLUTION, or the end. Now, this would be Bianca's wedding in our example, but the end is where everything simmers down and is, well, resolved! Or not, depending on your sequel status. But it never grows back up to the hectic frenzy of the climax, that's for sure.


Now, when looking at the story you've lovingly crafted, fed, bathed, treated as your own child: where's your progression? Your climax? Knowing these things makes it far easier to know where your end will be. After all, once you go on the straight and narrative--er, narrow--path, you don't often stray from it. In that story, at least. :)


Thirdly, we have to think about what sort of ending it is that you're going for. By that, I mean that you need to think long and hard about what you want the player to take away from your game. After all, the ending is the last bit they're see, and it's one of the things that will stay with them the most. 


Now, the rule of thumb is that the story MUST show some sort of progression. That is, the main character needs to come away with a better understanding of his world, himself, and his place in said world by the end of the tale. This, of course, may not always be a good thing. He may do all these 'great' deeds only to understand that he was unwillingly a pawn and therefore an aid to the bad guy. Or he might even BE the bad guy. Think about, if you have played it, "The Illogical Journey of the Zambonis." If you have not played it, go play it now and then come back, because it's something you need to know. Also, spoilers below. 



At the end of the game, the Zambonis die, but not before they learn that life is fickle and even the best intentions can end up with no winners.



The Zambonis lesson isn't always a happy one, but it's one they needed to learn. There's morality in that game, I tell you what. 


That's just the thing. I can't write your endings for you, no one can. They, like your story, have to be as original as you are. (insert angelic chorus). But you can write your stories. Think about your characters. What are their flaws? What should they learn about themselves by the end of the game? What should the player learn about them? After all, they're the ones going in blind. 


Think about your own favorite--or not so favorite--endings. What went wrong? Look at it, learn it dissect it, BE IT if you must. But think about it. Follow your story progression. Look at all angles. 


The end... it's already inside of you. 


Actually, that's all I have this time around. I hope that's helpful; I feel as though it wasn't quite as helpful as my other parts, but this is the series finale. If the ending to this is about endings, and it's a bad ending... don't take my advice. Heh, heh.... (clears throat). Anyway, I'm off to enjoy government-run America and corporate benefits. See ya! 




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I like the way you write :) Very entertaining. You were pretty thorough so I don't have anything to add. That's a nice little tutorial for writing words good.

I love creative writing. It's always nice to see someone else who does too. I really don't know how to teach it. I can just wing it and make stuff up as I go along yet manage to make everything flow and work together. I know all the rules and theories and etc for the most part. I just never really have to think about them while I'm writing.That's not really something you can teach. "Writing is easy, kids! Just pull random stuff out of your ass!" You managed lay out the process quite well. 

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