Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.

Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855


I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others.  Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865 Address to an Indiana Regimen on March 17, 1865

The ending of a story

_MG_5993Delay the action or answers to increase tension, emotions, and the final decision by the hero.  A turning point demands drama, dialogue, action, and vivid description.  Keep the clock ticking with timing, tension, momentum, and pace until the end.

The climax is the point when all appears to be lost and the main character has important insight.  It is the a-hah moment that answers why did the story exist and provides a satisfying solution to the problem that started the story.  Maintain tension until the last possible moment with a knockout scene.  Not only does the hero achieve his goal but he has grown personally and realizes what he must do.

Does the main character need to learn anything more before his final confrontation?

Think about whether your hero wins in the end.  If he does, how?  What does he learn through his victory or defeat?  What is his biggest accomplishment or mistake?

Tie up any loose ends before the final scene to avoid a long dialogue or summarizing the story in one lump paragraph.

The ending is logical and satisfying to the reader.  It should be anticipated but not predicted.

Have you foreshadowed any unexpected behavior so it’s not a total surprise to the reader?

Think about whether your villain is defeated in the end. If he is, how?  What are his crucial mistakes?  How are readers likely to respond to his failure or success?

If necessary, add an epilogue to wrap up any final questions the reader may have about the characters after the final conflict is revealed and resolved.

The middle of the story

_MG_6044Don’t allow your reader to skip the middle of the story.  Throw plenty of action, new characters, new developments, new settings, twists, and turns at the reader.

The middle should have a crisis.  It could be physical, emotional, or both.  Think of ways to surprise the reader.  Intensify the problem.  In a journey story, supplies run out, or someone runs off.

Does the main character have a set back or doubt his abilities and what motivates him to move forward in spite of his doubts?  Show another side to his personality.

Take the reader inside the hero’s head to show fears, misgivings, and secret vanities.  Give a character a secret, build a lovable quirk, or create an unexpected character with an unpredictable role.

Does the antagonist have a presence?  Does he have any phobias, weaknesses, or shortcomings to overcome?

What is the exact opposite that could happen at this turning point?  What is the most outrageous thing that could happen at this point?  Think of a cliffhanger and its resolution.

How does the conflict affect the characters and plot in both the short- and long-term of the story?

Add a momentary triumph followed by a setback.  Think of a subplot that adds to the story.

Alternate the action or description with building the character’s history and relationships through inner thoughts.  Adjust the pace of the story with dialogue to move faster or introspective to slow down.

Stretch the tension out in the middle and make objectives clear to the reader.  Emphasize the importance of achieving the goal.