Thursday, May 30, 2019

Endings: Lessons Learned from Game of Thrones

In my previous blog on Plotting, I wrote: The ending should contain a climax, falling action and a denouement or final resolution. Some element of change needs to occur.

I would like to elucidate a bit further on this element of story writing inspired by an article in the June Edition of Gotham Writers Workshop.

8cc1df66-3e9b-4be5-8c74-e5192e53b4fe.jpgThe final episodes of Game of Thrones drew a great deal of criticism and dissatisfaction from fans. In fact there’s even been a petition requesting HBO rewrite and reshoot the final season.

Alex Steele, President of Gotham Writers Workshop states:Moral: it’s important to give your stories a great ending; it doesn’t matter so much if it’s upbeat or tragic as long as it feels just right for that particular tale.”

Steele further observes: “the best advice about endings comes from Aristotle who said a good ending should be ‘surprising but inevitable.’ In this context, inevitable means the ending shows the blossoming from seeds that have been planted by the events and characters along the way. But the ending won’t be satisfying enough if we could have written it ourselves, so it needs to be surprising, either in what happens or in how we get there.”

The conclusion of traditional romances, for instance, is the happy-ever-after with the lovers finally pledging their undying love and devotion. But there are always obstacles that are seemingly insurmountable. Therefore, the main characters must overcome these obstacles in a satisfying way to achieve that happy ending.

In mystery fiction, endings are often more complex. The ingenious twist is desirable. The reader wants to know who the guilty culprit actually is. This drives the plot. The clues point the way to the denouement. Yet the ending should still be unexpected. In a truly clever mystery the reader should be surprised yet not confused by the outcome because the writer has played fair.

What are your thoughts regarding plot endings in general? Did you follow Game of Thrones? If so, what was your opinion regarding the ending of the series?


  1. Jacqueline,
    I always pay more attention to beginnings (the hooka) and the endings (with the parts you summarize). I work a lot on the first before the plot gets rolling along, which it usually does. When I'm nearing the end, I start worrying about crossing that finish line for the marathon of writing on a novel. I'd rather not fall on my face! ;-)
    The characters often help me there. They want me to make the ending good too. And they often want me to do it in a way to leave room for a sequel. That doesn't mean I should write a cliffhanger. Every novel should be a completely independent story. Characters' stories can continue in another novel, but it has to be a different story.
    Sorry for the verbose comment. Too much java this morning.
    r/Steve Moore

    1. One suggestion is to write backwards. That is: plot how the story will end before you begin the actual writing at the beginning.

  2. I think of the ending in a mystery as having two parts--the solution to the mystery itself and the resolution to the lives of the characters. These are different, and each one has to be thought through separately.

    1. Susan,

      That's an excellent approach. Especially true if you are writing a continuing series.

  3. Nope, not a watcher or follower of Game of Thrones. I agree that all loose ends must be tied up in a satisfactory manner.

    Great post!

    Good luck and God’s blessings

  4. Hi Pam,

    I'm not a fan either-too dark for my tastes!

  5. Like many viewers I thought the ending was blunt and lazy in that all these things happened without rhyme or reason in that we weren't guided there or shown motivation. Endings are tricky. Sometimes they can be easy write and other times extremely hard.

  6. Cornelia,

    I agree with you. I think it's important for writers to respect their audience and create in a worthy manner.