February 25, 2014

The Ending Is Vital

Some people say one ought to start writing a story from the end. For instance, after Mr. Night Shyamalan wrote his first draft of The Sixth Sense he [spoiler alert] realized that he needed for his main character, psychologist Cole Sear, to be a ghost himself. Only then would his story have a true, deep impact. Once he figured out the ending he needed, he worked the story backward, putting in hints about the truth throughout the story.

Walt Disney himself has stated this point in a succinct way:
"A good ending is vital to a picture, the single most important element, because it is what the audience takes with them out of the theater."

And it's true. I remember leaving the theater after watching Inception, and all I could hear around me were people discussing the ending of the movie, whether Cobb was still dreaming like his wife had told him all along, or if he'd managed to go back to reality and his waiting children (his quest throughout the movie). Even two long and far parking lots away, that's all people were talking about. And at the office. And on the Internet. Everywhere.

So the ending is key as to whether someone will remember your story for a lifetime, or simply shelve it as another, perhaps entertaining, [enter genre here].


  1. Interesting. It does not quite work, though, for books/movies that are not story(plot)-based. The notion of beginning or end are irrelevant. Many of my most favorite books/movies are in this category ("One Hundred Years of Solitude", "Hopscotch", "a lot of Coetzee's work, "Russian Ark", etc.) To me, the plot is a secondary element, just a vessel to carry the mood/atmosphere/meaning.

    1. Unfortunately, my mind can't wrap itself around poetry for too long. Rather, it finds it soporific after 5-10 minutes. Not that I can't find it really beautiful and admire it, but I don't think I could handle an entire "moody" book in one sitting. It's like how I can't stand yoga as a form of meditation, it's not active enough for me (besides, I'm about as bending as a piece of dry wood!).