This exercise is based on a personal recommendation from Rowena Harding-Smith to R. Jean Bell (aka bex). Bex has been having trouble finishing stories lately, unless they are microfiction. She gets ideas and starts but stalls out and can’t seem to complete them.
So the goal of this exercise is to write story endings. Even if you aren’t struggling like Bex, endings can be great practice. A good ending to a short story shows how a character has changed or resisted change because of the events of the story and opens the door to the character’s modified life.
How a story ends shapes the entire story. It is, in effect, the goal of the character arc, although the character doesn’t necessarily know that yet, and ideally matches up in some way with the opening. The ending of the story must flow from the beginning, it must be the culmination of the character’s internal and external arcs, and it must somehow still feel fresh but also inevitable to the reader.
Many of us are used to starting at the beginning and figuring out the end as we go. This exercise will make us figure out the goal for a character instead. Then we can, if we want, go back later and work out how the character got there.
The purpose of the exercise is to turn the more common writing method on its head to break down barriers and to encourage us to think about our stories and characters in a different way. When you read, what makes an ending satisfying for you and how can you put the pieces of satisfaction into your own work?
Write a minimum of three story endings using characters of your choice. Chopping the ending off an existing story draft doesn’t count. Try to write at least one ending that doesn’t use characters you’ve worked with before. It is acceptable to use existing worlds and create side stories for characters that aren’t usually POV characters. If you have partial stories where you have gotten stuck, you may write up to two of your endings as conclusions for those. They may even be alternate endings for the same story.
We recommend a minimum of 250 words for each ending. The goal is to have potential for making a reasonably sized story from the ending–not microfiction.
Write the ending first, even if you get so excited you have to go back and complete the story right away.
This is practice so don’t hesitate to push outside your usual genres or characters or to try a different character arc than usual. If you mainly write positive change arcs, see if one of your endings can be for a negative or resist change arc.
Joining in the Exercise
This isn’t a contest. We don’t recommend sharing the results publicly on your blog. Our goal is to encourage you to write and to think about how to make your writing the best it can be. The result of the exercise is your own and you can do whatever is right for you–finish the stories and seek publication, toss the endings in a drawer and never think on them again, or share your experience on your blog.
If you want to work with our members to improve your writing, consider joining our Discord server and participating in
#inkubator. The room is always there, so you can participate at your own schedule and pace. Sometimes the channel also has extra in-between challenges and discussion. You can post your writing for any of the exercises in
#ink-review to ask for feedback. Since our server is private and requiring membership, sharing work with us doesn’t cost you your first publication rights.
The channels operate as a peer review system, so we do expect you to give feedback on at least two other writers for every exercise you participate in. Learning to edit is an essential part of writing. It is often easier to recognize the weaknesses in our own writing after we’ve seen the impacts they have in the writing of others. Giving feedback to others builds your own writing skills.
Join any exercise at any time and work at your own pace. We offer recommended deadlines within our server group for those who work best with pressure, but they are not mandatory. Let us know, however, if you need that extra push for your own growth. We recognize that each member has their own path to follow, but we work together to support each other as we progress.
You’re also welcome to work on our exercises on your own or share them with your writing group without joining our Discord server. Do what works for you to help you grow as a writer. Finding the right “tribe” can be very personal.