Monday, August 10, 2009

Contrived Endings

Picture it - Saturday morning, done writing (at least for a bit) and I flip on LMN (Lifetime Movie Network). A movie's just starting, so I think to myself hey, watch the movie and then write some more. The movie started out strong - good pacing, believable characters, and all that jazz. Then, lo and behold, somebody shatters the perfection. All of a sudden, the characters are doing crazy, and pretty much unbelievable things. Yeah, I know, it's LMN after all!

Well, dear readers, that's no excuse. By the end of the movie, I realize that the ending is (yup, you guessed it) contrived. The ending totally doesn't make sense, thus this post.

I think the writers of the movie should have read Lady Glamis' posts about outlining, here, here, and here! Dang, that's a lot of outling! There were also three separate posts, thus the three hyperlinks. Whew!

Seriously, the ending was totally contrived just to give the characters a happy ending.

DON'T DO IT! Don't contrive your ending just to have happily ever after, or because you just think everything should end up in a neat little package. Life isn't a neat little package. The endings of our stories shouldn't be a neat little package either. If they are, I'm afraid they might (though not in all instances) come across as contrived.

Now, in this movie, all of a sudden, two characters fell in love with each other. It's not like there was a bunch of stuff leading up to this undying love the characters suddenly had for each other. I mean, it was LMN movie, so I knew it was coming, but seriously, people, not in such a contrived fashion that just didn't make sense . . . at least not to me.

There should have been more. There wasn't. So, hop over to Lady Glamis' blog The Innocent Flower and read her posts about outlining. Then, go to the ending of whatever manuscript you're working on and read the end.

Ask yourself these questions ~

Does this ending really make sense?

Are the characters acting in the way I wrote them to act?

Does the ending feel forced and/or contrived?

Am I taking the easy road out with this ending? Are all the characters gloriously happy and living happily ever after (except for Cinderella's stepsisters, who had their eyes pecked out by a flock of ravenous birds - hey, is that where Mr. Hitchcock came up with the idea??)?

Does it make sense that Character A and Character B suddenly declare their love and jump into bed together?

Does it make sense that Character A (strong, independent woman, raising a child on her own, never committed to any man) is suddenly wearing Character B's shirt after their spontaneous moment of doing the big nasty?

I'm sure there are more questions you could ask yourself. I'm sure there are more questions the writers of this movie should have asked themselves. Yeah, I know, LMN, two hour time limit, and all that jazz. That is not a good excuse. What happened at the end of the movie was totally out of character for the . . .well . . . uh . . . characters!

I mean, no dates between the characters, no romantic dinners, no nothing, and suddenly they're declaring their undying love for one another!!! Then, they're hopping into bed. Then, they're committing themselves to life . . . all in less than 24 hours. Yes, less than 24 hours. I mean, I'm all about true love, but this was even a stretch for me.

I think had the writers outlined a bit better, filled in the plot holes, the ending could have been as good as the beginning. Instead, I was left feeling gipped out of a good ending. Kind of like what happened after I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Let me tell you, the book ending sucked and didn't make sense. Now, when Lifetime adapted the book to a movie, the ending was changed to one that wasn't contrived and made perfect sense.

So, don't let your ending become contrived. Make sure it makes sense!!


Mini RiP Update - I've reached the halfway point in the revision process. I still have a ton of words to go. Chapter Thirteen (the start of Part II) will be a bit more difficult because of my splitting the book in my temporary moment of insanity and thinking I should market the books as two separate books, versus my instinct of marketing it as one book. : )


Charlie said...

I think the average viewer's limited attention span has something to do with the glaring lack of creativity on television.

Personally, I think Lady Glamis's post are all required reading for any writer.

I may be in the midst of correcting POV problems in my story, but my ending is definetely not contrived! lol

I need coffee, pronto.

Wow. This comment turned into a random list of thoughts.

B.J. Anderson said...

Great post! And very helpful to get me thinking about my own ending (bites nails). I hope it isn't contrived!!! And yes, Lady Glamis's blog is required reading, lol.

Tess said...

Congrats on the 1/2 way point ..hooray!

And, you are SO SO right on this. I did a post once on 'sucky endings'. It has gotten me some funny hits over at stat counter under the keyword widget, but I digress...

Writing the contrived ending is taking the easy way out. I try to avoid it, but appreciate a good critique group who can tell me if I'm slipping.

ElanaJ said...

You're so right. Recently I deleted 95 pages of my WiP and started in the middle. The ending was rough to write because I really really really wanted my two MC's to be together, with everything hunky dory and all that. It just wasn't meant to be. They liked each other, sure, and that was well-established. But they could never be together without some serious counseling and soul-searching, something neither one of them had done. So yeah. They're together, but not "together."

Lady Glamis said...

Great post, Scott! This is exactly why I don't watch much television, and I'm extremely picky on the books and movies I decide to watch. I hate wasting my time.

I know my endings aren't contrived. They have been at points, and perhaps there's spots in them that still are, but I'm far from finished on the mapping/outlining process on both of them, so yay! Problems await fixing.

Endings are harder than beginnings, in my opinion. They have to deliver that promise that's made at the beginning. And they have to do it in a believable and beautiful way. That's a tall order when you've got 200 pages of stuff in between... all those subplots and stuff. Haha.

Scott said...

Charlie - I agree about the average viewer's limited attention span, but still . . . a crappy ending is a crappy ending, and the writer should have known better. Oh, and nothing wrong with some random thoughts. : )

BJ - I sometimes think the endings are the hardest part of writing, especially when my characters step outside the little box I purposely put them in.

Tess - thanks. I hate when writers take the easy way out. The ending should tie in with the rest of the story and make sense.

Elana - it's funny how our characters seem to take charge and do things we never intended. In Margarita Nights, I seriously ended for two particular characters to end up together. I knew 'this' when I started the story. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the ending . . . the characters didn't end up together. Go figure.


Scott said...

Lady Glamis - agree totally with you. Endings are definitely one of the hardest parts of writing and they must, must, must make sense.

The ending to 'The Memory Keepers' daughter didn't make sense. The revised ending of the Lifetime adaption did make sense. I guess the author probably heard quite a few comments about the ending. : )

I think believability is the key. The movie I watched was far too contrived and not believable. It's too bad, because it was a good movie up until that point.