If This Was the Last Scene of a Story …

If this was the last scene of a story, how would you write it? The setting appears to be related to a church, either a a wall around a church building or a cemetery. The statues makes me think it’s a Catholic site. It could be sunset or sunrise–either would work for an ending.Who are the people walking through the gate? Husband and wife? Mother and son? Two strangers who happened to bump into each other?

If this photo inspires the last scene of a story for your, please share it in the comments. Here’s my inspiration:

Mom gave the tombstone a stroke across its rough top, planted her cane in the ground, and turned to me. “I’m done.” A smile, making her look about six, hovered on her lips. “I guess we both are now.”

Jamming my hands in the pockets of my shorts, I felt about six. “I’m sorry I complained so much. And tried to discourage you. And–“

“If you’re gonna say you’re sorry for everything you did wrong on this trip, I’m gonna have to find a comfortable tombstone and sit.” She shuffled toward the tall gate, the sunset catching her full in the face. “I accept your apology. And any future ones you think you gotta make.”

Why did her quick acceptance make me feel worse? I fell in step beside her, and she took my arm with her free hand.

If it took forever to get from the car to the cemetery, it seemed to take forever and a day to get to the van. It glinted under the gold beams of evening and still looked like it should collapse on its axels.

As I helped Mom into the passenger seat, she turned and took my face in both hands. “Thank you, Jimmy.” She kissed me on the nose.

“You’re–uh …” I pulled back and slunk around to my side. I couldn’t say “You’re welcome”. A parent shouldn’t have to thank her child for doing his job.

I slide behind the wheel and stared ahead. Only one thing to do.

“Mom, I gotta call Aiden.” I swiped his number.

“Dad?” Aiden sounded stunned, like he expected a call from me to be about as likely as one from the President.

“I accept your apology.”

“You do?” The questions was a whisper.

“Absolutely. I was wrong not accept it when you first said it. But we can talk more about it when Mom and I get home.” I looked at the high wall. The sunset seemed to give Jesus and the saints along the top halos. I looked to Mom. She gave me an enormous grin and patted my arm

“We’ve got way too much to tell you over the phone.”

Aiden said okay in a daze, and I hung up.

As I headed back down the pothole-pocked road, I felt six again. Six years old, like when you just know anything is possible.

For more photo prompts to inspire endings, click here.

What About a Less Than Happy Ending?

What about a less than happy ending for today’s photo prompt about writing endings? I don’t mean a complete downer–life has enough of those. But how about one that is not totally upbeat, maybe an ending that has both positive and negative elements? When I came across this portrait, it got me to imaging how this woman could fit into an ending. And she doesn’t look happy.

Here’s what I created for a less than happy ending.

Amy, Rachel, and I descended the steps of the police station. I zipped my coat as a sudden gust tore down the street.

“It’s all over,” Rachel sighed.

At the bottom step, I said to Amy, “I’m glad I had the chance to help you, no matter what happened, to prove how sorry I am.”

Amy had been gazing down the street as fat flakes collected on her hair. Now her head swiveled to me, and I knew that stare. I’d seen it since we were kids.

“What makes you think you’ve proven anything?” she said in that ice-cold tone that sunk into me better than fangs.

“He nearly died saving you,” Rachel shouted. “If that doesn’t prove it, nothing will.” She blinked. “That’s the truth, isn’t it? Jake can’t reconcile with you because you won’t let him. Not because he doesn’t want to.”

That was the truth. All these years, I had thought I hadn’t tried hard enough to make up for the way I treated Amy, and it really came down to Amy didn’t want to forgive me. She liked wielding the power of unforgiveness.

I drug in a deep breath of frigid air, shoving my hands deep in the pockets of my coat. “If you ever want to act like a real sister, Amy, I’ll be ready.” I headed down the sidewalk, Rachel falling in step beside me.

“You were never a real brother to me.” Amy’s quiet voice sliced through the snowflakes.

I stopped. “Not when we were kids. But I am now.”

“You got that right,” said Rachel, giving me a tired smile.

We turned the corner at the end of the block, and I didn’t look back.

For more photo prompts to inspire endings, click here.

Three Elements That Every Ending Must Have

No matter what genre you write, the three elements every ending must have are the climax, the denouement or wrap-up, and the last lines. If one of these three things are missing, readers walk away unsatisfied, perhaps not realizing why, just aware that a particular story let them down, and they will tell their friends that it “didn’t have a good ending.”

Since I’m focusing on endings this month, I’m reposting the explanations for these three elements of an ending so that in future posts, you’ll understand what I’m writing about.

The Climax

My Webster’s dictionary defines the climax as “the point of greatest intensity in a series of events.” As I wrote to the climax of my novel, A Shadow on the Snow, I had to make sure that I kept building the tension by raising the stakes for my main character. Half way through the novel, I have an action sequence that puts a big twist in the plot. I wanted to make this scene suspenseful and exciting, but not more than the climax. It’s like a fireworks display. It’s all right to set off some really big fireworks in the middle, but I need to save the most impressive ones for the end.

The Denouement

Or the wrap up, where the loose ends of the plot are tied up. This is especially important in a mystery. In the climax, the detective reveals who the culprit is. In the denouement, he must explain how he solved the mystery. The danger with this part is I will write on and on, drawing out the ending, deflating the thrill of the climax. 

That was a complaint of many people who watched The Return of the Kingwhen it came out in 2003. The climax was when the One Ring was destroyed in the flames of Mount Doom. The movie continued for fifteen or twenty minutes, resolving character developments and plot points. I didn’t mind because I’d read the novel and expected these scenes. But other people thought the denouement dragged on too long.

On the other hand, I don’t want to end too abruptly. We’ve all watched shows or read books where the storyline doesn’t so much ends as quits, as if the writer lost interest. My kids pointed this out when they watched The Rescuers Down Under. In this Disney cartoon, a little boy is kidnapped by a poacher, who is hunting a rare bird. The boy is rescued, the bird saved, but my kids felt they should have shown the boy being reunited with his mother. It was a loose end left dangling.

Last lines

I struggled with this in my novel because it’s so important. It’s literally the last thing people read and probably one of the things that sticks with them. Whatever mood, message, or feeling I’m trying to convey throughout the story should be there in the last lines.

For my short story, “A Rose from the Ashes”, I wanted an ending that would leave a smile on the face of readers. The climax is very emotional as my MC confronts the three men who could be her father and the one who tried to murder her mother. I wanted the last lines to be lighter but still carry the deep meaning of Rae finding her father. 

I was inspired by the way Alfred Hitchcock ended The Man Who Knew Too Much. Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day play American parents, unwittingly involved in an international assassination plot. Their son Hank is kidnapped, and they chase the criminals across Europe, thwart the scheme, and rescue Hank unharmed in England. A few of their English friends have been waiting for them at their hotel. When the reunited family walks in, Jimmy Stewart says, “Sorry we were gone so long, but we had to pick up Hank.” I like how that line is perfectly honest, but the audience knows the true meaning while the friends only take it at face value.

What books or movies have great endings? Which ones have lousy ones?

How Could This Scene End a Story?

Since December’s the last month of the year, this month’s theme of crafting endings seems more than appropriate. My photo prompts will be selected to inspire endings. But how can you write an ending without a beginning? It’s easy if you’re brain works like mine, although I wouldn’t wish that on you. Climaxes or wrap-ups are often the first thing I think of when I start to formulate a story. I’ll write more about that later this month, but for now–how could this scene end a story?

Here’s my inspiration. Please put your inspiration in the comments below.

I placed Noah on the sled. And he sat there. He didn’t leap off with an alarmed look on his sweet face. He just sat, waiting, trusting me.

It had taken deathly threat to get here, but it was worth it.

A lump clogged my throat, but bursting into happy sobs would confuse or even scare Noah.

Swallowing, I picked up the rope tied to the sled and broken into a huge smile. “Ready to ride?”

Giggling, he nodded and bent over the steering wheel, and we were off.

Fore more photo prompts about endings, click here.

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