The Predictable Ending

When we read a book we like to guess how it is going to end. We want something logical, that makes sense based upon the action.

On the other hand, we also like to be surprised. We may enjoy the predictable, but we are startled when everything we thought was going to happen, does not.

So what do you do as a writer? If you stay with predictable, will your readers lose interest? Possibly. Why not try for an unexpected ending, something that readers don’t see coming. Even if your story doesn’t have a major twist in plot, there could be a shift that takes the readers in a direction that they couldn’t imagine.

Your task is to take something that you have written, a finished piece that maybe isn’t quite working the way you wanted, and change the ending. Instead of the butler doing it, maybe it was the car-share driver. Instead of getting the dream job, she gets hired to do something unrelated, but enjoyable.

The important thing is that your new ending must be satisfying. It must be justified by all that has happened in the story and therefor supported by the narrative.

Once you have rewritten the ending, reflect upon your work. Is it more satisfying? Does the surprise change the narrative so that predictability is altered? Hopefully you will discover something new in the process.

Have fun with this one.

Ulterior Motives

I enjoy the reality show Survivor because the players are constantly working towards goals. From the beginning, they try to form alliances that they feel will benefit them as they play the game. The motive is to create a voting block that will keep them on day after day.

They also have to build shelter and fire in order to survive the elements and to eat. On many days they compete in games that test physical stamina as well as the ability to outwit a mental challenge. The motive to win is huge. Not just for the glory of winning, but to get the prize, which can be in the form of food, means of survival, as well as not being forced to vote someone off of the team.

Ulterior motives are not just the thing of games, but of real life. We perform for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we do things just because we want to, but many times it’s because we yearn for something in return.

For example, a person runs for elected office in order to win, not just to see their name in the news and on the ballot.

The dating game is all about ulterior motives. Two strangers meet, size each other up, talk a bit to establish if there are any common grounds, all with the motive of going out on a date. The eventual outcome could be falling in love and getting married.

Our characters must also have ulterior motives or they are not fully developed. Three-dimensional people make decisions based on perceived outcomes. So must your characters.

Let’s say you’re writing a thriller in which someone dies. Why? What was the purpose of the death? Is your character the murderer or the one who will solve the crime? In order to find out who did it, the detective must be able to analyze the motive for the crime.

Your task is to take something that you’ve written and reread, looking for places where ulterior motive drives the action. If you cannot find any, then you must rewrite.

Start with the first page. Somewhere within those words the reader needs to understand what drives the main character to action. If that information is missing, put it in.

But don’t stop there. Throughout the piece we need to see the motives change as the situation changes. Don’t barrage us with motives, but find a way to keep us informed.

Seeing motive unfold drives the story forward and keeps the reader entranced.

Have fun with this one!