There's a thing that happens in my brain when I want to end a story. Roughly half of my brain says "This is a nice way for a story to end," and the rest of my brain crosses its arms and pouts rebelliously, muttering to itself that "The story isn't actually over, you know."
I would say this is unique to me, but I know for a fact that I'm not the only person in the world that has trouble with ending stories. If I wasn't, then things like "I meant for this to be a stand-alone story but it turned into a series" wouldn't happen. I'm looking at you, Ranger's Apprentice.
So, when I need to end a story, close the door on these characters and move on with my life, what I most often do is find myself a nice sort of fairy tale ending, where all the loose ends are taken care of and tada, I have an ending.
That's what I did with this year's NaNoWriMo story. At the end, I said, "Okay. He'll challenge the usurper, beat him up a bit, win the crown, then give it to his best friend because she's more suited to that position than he is." And I was happy with that for about... two weeks.
Then I started asking questions. (Is anyone else seeing a pattern here, with the contentment and then the questions and then "BLARGH THIS DOESN'T WORK?!?!" cycle?)
- If he's not eligible to inherit the crown, would he even have a legal right to Challenge the king for a crown he can't claim for himself?
No. The king's noble supporters would say it was an illegitimate Challenge and contest his friend's claim to the crown.
- What if his friend doesn't even want to be queen?
She doesn't, really, but she has enough of a sense of responsibility that she would do it.
- What about his brother, who is actually eligible for the crown and has a legal right to Challenge the king? Where is he during all this?
I don't know how to handle this. He's supposed to be held hostage and trained as a puppet king for just-in-cases, but how would that play out if the original claim was illegitimate anyway?
- And where's the dragon for this kerfuffle, anyway?
Please just stop asking hard questions...
So, as you can see, once I started poking holes in the ending, it fell apart really fast. I couldn't think how to proceed, so I threw this problem at a very intelligent friend of mine. As I did this, I learned that the problem was not that I had the wrong ending, per say (although I did, in fact, have the wrong ending).
The problem was that I had decided what the ending would be without first consulting what the characters would actually do.
It was time to rewind and figure out what the characters would do in that situation, given their positions, personalities, and power.
We'll come back to that on Friday, once I've, you know... actually figured it out.