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How to write surprise endings

In his book Plot & Structure,James Scott Bell has a great chapter on story endings. He writes about the different types of endings, including the twist or surprise ending.

In a way, all of our endings should incorporate surprise or the unexpected. We don’t want our stories to be so transparent that the reader can guess what comes next, eventually becoming bored with our story.

So how do authors come up with great twist endings? Bell admits he doesn’t know exactly as it’s not something that can be boiled down to a formula. But he does offer tips for helping us brainstorm possibilities.

Bell says as you’re writing your story you probably already have an idea of your ending.  He recommends you continue writing, but as you get closer to the end of your first draft, pause for a bit and come up with 10 alternate endings. Yes, 10. And he recommends completing this exercise in thirty minutes.

Don’t justify your endings, don’t belabor them. Just get them down on paper. Once you have them, let them simmer in your imagination for a few days.

To see what Bell recommends next, read his chapter on endings. You’ll be glad you did because you’ll be able to apply his ideas to any type of story–whether novels, short stories or even poetry.

In an upcoming post, I’ll write about how I applied this technique to a poem I wrote in which I didn’t like my original ending.

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