Ah, the end of the movie. The bad guy is defeated and the credits roll.
If only it were that simple.
With NaNoWriMo over (I won! Wrote 50,000 words!), the project in question (with the very exciting name Space Knights [it’s in space, but there’s really only one knight]) is sitting at 140,000 words, which would be a really good time to start wrapping it up. Could probably reach the climax and the other side in another 10-20,000 words. Which sounds like a lot, but all the pieces are in play and my main characters are quite literally hurtling towards a final showdown.
Which, for me, begs the question: What next? Like, we get the big final climax and then…?
In thinking about endings, I feel like there are two schools of thought: A New Hope and The Return of The King. In A New Hope the Death Star blows up, we get the award ceremony, and the movie ends. In Return of The King, the Ring is destroyed, and then we have a whole lotta denouement as Aragorn gets crowned and the Hobbits go home. Despite being very different, both endings work (and I will defend RoTK’s long ending!). So, why do they?
In A New Hope the Battle of Yavin is the culmination of everyone’s arcs. Luke Skywalker has gone from farmboy to starfighter pilot, and when he switches off his targeting computer to rely on the Force for the final shot on the Death Star, that’s him committing to undertaking his father’s legacy as an ace pilot and Jedi Knight. Luke’s arc completes in the Battle. Han Solo comes round to believing in something when he says “may the Force be with you” to Luke (compared to his talk of hokey religions earlier on) and his return to save Luke and help blow up the Death Star is him standing for something. For Princess Leia, getting the Death Star plans to the Rebels is what she’s been trying to do the whole time. The Death Star’s destruction is her success.
When they blow up the Death Star, the heroes have Done The Thing, closure has been gotten, and we can all go home happy after a quick medal ceremony.
For The Return of The King, destroying the Ring and ending the War is just one thing for everyone. Aragorn must be crowned King, the Hobbits have to go home, and Bilbo has his book to read. There’s so much more that needs to be resolved beyond “yay everyone’s friends!” before the movie can really complete. Seeing the Hobbits together in the Shire is important because it’s the world they saved. Important too is the Gray Havens and Frodo going into the West, since for him it’s a bit about belonging and finally being able to find peace after carrying the Ring. And Sam? He goes home to Rosie and he’s back.
Both endings work because they both see the resolution of their protagonists’ arcs but in different ways. For A New Hope, the success of the Battle of Yavin is everyone reaching self-actualization, in RoTK destroying the Ring and defeating Sauron is a means to reaching self-actualization. Put otherwise, in A New Hope destroying the Death Star shows how much they’ve changed, whereas in RoTK we see how much they’ve changed by destroying the Ring. Pacific Rim is another one in the vein of A New Hope and Pirates of The Caribbean does like RoTK.
So what kind of ending is my story going to have? I think it might lean closer to one like A New Hope, but I’m not entirely sure yet. In any case, it’s the first draft, so I have plenty of time to figure it out.