Sunday, February 14, 2016

Jacquelyn Mitchard: Say Goodbye to All of That: The Quest for the Perfect Ending

Jacquelyn Mitchard delivering her keynote

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the number one New York Times best-selling author of ten novels for adults, seven novels for teenagers, and five children's books, as well as editor-in-chief of Merit Press, a realistic young adult imprint., and a professor of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Jacquelyn talks about endings, how it's "more difficult to end a story than to start one," and how "most books really just stop."

She shares some resonant endings, ones that meet the challenge of "ushering the reader back into the world that you convinced the reader to leave."

We're asked to consider, for our own work, "how does the reader feel let in?"

Breaking down the different kinds of endings (with examples), Jacquelyn discusses cliffhanger endings, reflective endings, the incident ending, the simple happy ending (in which people get what they want), the happy/sad ending (like in The Fault in our Stars,) and more!

An ending has to tie up the loose ends, provide a conclusion, and also usher the reader back into the world... and do it quickly.

The ending should also include an element that takes the reader by surprise, something to "make the reader gasp one last time" before they leave the world of your story.

Which all makes it challenging to write the ending to this blog post, striving for a "wrap up with a shot of emotion."

But Jacquelyn saves the day (and this post), because the ending of her keynote comes in the form of a writing exercise: we're all asked to craft one sentence, an alternate ending for To Kill A Mockingbird, from Scout's point of view. A few people from the crowd share their alternate endings.

The original final line: 

"[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

Now, you get the chance to put in your own final words: play along in comments.

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