Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Craft The Unexpected Ending

Recently I wrote about Cynthia Kersey and her Unstoppable Enterprises. Last week Kersey sent out a short story that caught my attention. The story led me down one direction then surprised me with the unexpected ending:

"One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey."

"He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!"

"Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up."

Whatever story you are writing today, can you craft a surprise ending? Can you move the reader one direction then add the unexpected twist? Or is your story simply predictable? I hope not. Whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction, you should be looking for ways to add the unexpected to your writing. It will make it stand out to the editor or agent. And hopefully it will keep your submission out of the rejection pile. I freely admit that it's not easy and takes work to create these sorts of endings. It's a great technique and worth your consideration.

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5 Comment:

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

I love that donkey tale - I used the same premise in a classroom setting with children for Kids Super Church. I wanted to illustrate a story for the kids of how life will come at us, toss us into messy places, dark places -- but we have a choice - give up or keep on "walking" - and when you get to the top - there's no "tailing" or is that telling what the world holds for the person who steps toward the light.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Gina Conroy Left a note...

While writing my cozy mystery, I came up with an unexpected ending, at least I think it's unexpected. But how do I really know if it's unexpected or predictable? Then again, I don't want it too unexpected that the reader doesn't believe it!

How do you approach this type of ending without leaving the reader feeling cheated?

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


You test your market with readers--before sending it off to your editor. Yes it takes a bit of time and energy--but find honest readers who will tell you if the ending is weird or contrived. Too many writers work in isolation when we should be working in relationship and have better feedback before it goes off to the editor or agent. That's my two cents on it.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

That's good advice, Terry. I've had readers tell me the ending of my novel, Brigid of Ireland, was unexpected. I had hoped it would be, and was pleased that people liked it. Imagine my dismay when a reviewer revealed the surprise ending! Thankfully, it was a local publication and not a whole lot of people would have read it. My Amazon rankings did improve after that review came out. Maybe it didn't disuade people from buying it. Just a caution if you review books: Don't give away the ending!!

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Shelley L. MacKenzie Left a note...

I've recently begun a story on sprititual warfare. Last night while trying to get to sleep, an ending popped into my mind which I like (though of course it will be revised and whatnot at some point, but it's a start). However, I'm debating on which part of the ending would be the unexpected end...and I'm not sure which to use. I'll use your advice to Gina about getting others to read it and see which ending would be better.


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