Endings! Brilliant, aren’t they? When they work, anyway. Happy ones, sad ones, twisty ones, cliffhanger ones, understated ones, ones where the island blows up in a big fireball – it really doesn’t matter which form they take, as long as they leave you with the feeling that everything that came before them has been paid off by something great. Like eating in The Fat Duck and handing the waiter your Barclays Moonrock Credit Card. (What the actual fuck? One hundred and fifty quid for a meal? And it takes four hours? Screw this, I’m ordering takeaway.)
The Usual Suspects, Seven, The Sixth Sense, The Best of Both Worlds Part 1, Battlestar Galactica Season 2, Memento, Fight Club, The Prestige – good endings like these leave you with your jaw on the floor, babbling insanely about how they’re fried awesome. I remember my stunned “Ohhhhh, that’s fucking unbelieeeeeevable” reaction to the end of The Usual Suspects, which was host to one of the greatest twists in cinematic history. Some climaxes have massively big brass balls, taking you to places where you never thought the narrative could go. And sometimes a rousing finale can save an otherwise mediocre piece of work from the jaws of inadequacy.
But while my list above is top-heavy with twist endings, conventional ones can be more than satisfying too. An action film which saves its best shooty-explodey bits for last, tends to be rather enjoyable (though I’ve noticed an alarming trend for the first half of these films to be way better than the second). Hell, a romantic comedy can have a completely predictable outcome and yet still leave me more than satisfied when the credits roll, as long as the characters are compelling and you’re really rooting for them to get together.
Since I love good endings and appreciate their value to the final overall impression of a movie, TV episode or book, I try to make sure that whenever I write anything, the climax is worth waiting for. There’s nothing more depressing in entertainment than something that starts out brilliantly, only to peter out into a muddled dribble to the stony silence of a let-down audience. (*Cough* Alex Garland *cough*.)
I was pretty happy with my ending to Certainty, which (in my mind, anyway) unleashes a nice reversal and accompanying twist, before launching into things blowing up and an extended action piece (writing’s great, as you have an excuse to be 5 years old again!), before a hopefully devastating bit of character-based tomfoolery may prompt debate among readers as to whether the main protagonist actually has emerged victorious by the final page.
My ending to Jump! is a different kettle of fish. It was meant to be a cakewalk to write. I knew that the action scene beforehand would be tricky to lay out on the page, but I imagined that the next bit wouldn’t be a problem at all. Wrong! Actually, it’s proving to be rather a headache. There’s a lot of information to put across without being all talking-heady or writing horribly expository dialogue, and I haven’t got many pages to do it in. And the concepts involved are proving difficult to get my head around, in terms of making them crystal-clear for the audience. It’s one of those endings where in my mind it works easily, but the old brain-to-page ratio that I’ve talked about a few times on this blog now, is a bit of a problem at present. Hopefully I’ll work it out when I have another look at it, but at the moment it’s causing me pause.
Which means that I’m in danger of doing what I hate most – having a nice setup and then not delivering the awesome payoff to “seal the deal”, as it were. So I’ll have to do the only thing for it – which is to think, and think, and think some more until I work the bloody thing out.
But as any woman will tell you, the idea of a man thinking is dangerous.