You Say You Want a Resolution: 3 Steps To A Great Ending

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Over the last few years, I’ve taught dozens storytelling workshops to people of all ages.  Without fail, the most common question I hear from students is: How do you find an ending to your story without lapsing into cliche or resorting to “And that’s how I learned…” or “The moral of the story is…”?

The answer is simpler than you think.

To begin the week, here are “3 Steps to a Great Ending” that will leave you feeling more confident about resolutions.  

Step 1: Determine the moment of crisis

All stories involve a character struggling with a significant problem.  The first step to ending your story is to figure out the point of highest tension. This is also the place when you are most vulnerable in the story.  Maybe you were face-to-face with the Rottweiler that ate your brother.  Or maybe you had to confront your boss about his embezzlement of company funds.  

Once you find the moment of crisis, make sure you understand the stakes of the situation.  The bigger the stakes,the more invested the audience will become.

Step 2: Find the climactic moment  

Once you identify the moment of crisis, find the climactic moment.  The climactic moment (climax) of a story is the moment when the tension in the story finally boils over.   It’s the moment when you wrestle the Rottweiler to the ground and it licks your nose, or the moment when your boss finally admits to stealing money.  You finally have an answer!

Remember: The climax offers the audience the relief they are waiting for, so don’t cheat them of the experience or draw it out for too long.  Don’t be coy!  

Step 3: Show us the consequences  

The final step to ending your story is to answer the question: what are the consequences to resolving the problem?  What happens?!?  

One way to show the character change is to return to the opening scenes in the story.  For example, the first time you saw a Rottweiler, you ran as fast as you could in the opposite direction.  But in the end, when you see a Rottweiler for the final time, you snarl at it and it backs away.  

Show the audience transformation and they will reward you will applause.  How’s that for an ending?

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