Curtains: Writing Effective Endings – Pamela Mytroen
Endings can be difficult. Do they ever feel like they are just tacked on? I like to think of them as different types of curtains on stage. I’m not a scriptwriter or even an avid theatre-goer, but this visual helps me as I write my endings. Three that I come across regularly are the “Sudden-Death Curtain,” the “Preview Curtain,” and the “Curtain Call.”
In the Sudden-Death Curtain ending, a story or article ends without warning. There used to be a column in our paper titled “Over the Hill” in which the writer shared humorous stories as she bent herself into new technology curves. Suddenly she would end her piece with no warning, no tie-back to the beginning, and no clue as to what might be in the next week’s column. Just when you were going full tilt, bam! It was over. No time to feel bored. It always made me laugh. She had said everything she wanted to, so why drag on? I think it worked for her because she consistently used this style and her readers came to connect her pieces with the Sudden-Death Curtain.
Another way to end your piece is the Preview Curtain ending. Imagine near the end of a performance a new character is introduced and drops a hint as to what might happen in the next play. Many book and television series end this way. Though the major character’s problems may have been resolved, a minor character that we have admired throughout the story may be highlighted near the end, and with him comes a troubling discovery. We have had a preview, but now we will have to read the next book to see what happens. A preview ending can be used in nonfiction pieces as well by tying the topic of your piece to what is coming next. For example, if your piece is on how to protect your garden from frost, you might end by suggesting that there are recipes for green tomatoes coming up in next week’s blog or column.
There are other ways to end, but the third ending I will refer to is the Curtain Call ending. Just like all the characters from the play make a repeat appearance at the end, this ending also pulls up some reference from the beginning and echoes it at the end. Phil Callaway is a master at this. He will often use a little anecdote about something from his life at the beginning, and then at the end he will make another humorous reference to it. The reader feels acknowledged for recognizing the repeat reference and enjoys how the piece resonates and connects all the way through from beginning to end.
I believe everybody has an inborn style, or voice, which, if used consistently, becomes a trademark of their writing. I don’t think it does any good to stress over your voice, or style, of ending. Just like you have the physical voice you were born with, so you have the writer’s voice already in you. The best way to develop your ending voice is to practice, practice, practice, and also notice your favourite types of endings when you read. If you work on creating distinctive curtains at the end of every piece, your readers will come to recognize your style and will soon be back for a front seat.
Pamela is an “English as an Additional Language Instructor” and “Language Assessor” in Saskatchewan. She loves baking, reading, and spending time with her family, which has grown to include a sweet grandson. She writes for her local newspaper and, as Acquisitions Editor for Fellowscript, she enjoys working with writers to see their ideas in print. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org