Surprising yet inevitable: Here’s the story

TFA Review.jpg

When I took a creative writing course in college, the instructor, Ron Hansen, told us that the ending of a story should be surprising yet inevitable. We all stared at him like, Huh? How is that possible? But this advice is perfect. In any story — short story, novel, play, or movie — the seeds of the ending should be set up as the story builds. Through character traits, decisions characters make, hints the author gives… and when the ending hits, readers will think, Wow, I didn’t see that coming. And, after reflection, But now it all makes sense. 

Now when I teach creative writing, I always tell my students that endings should be surprising yet inevitable. My favorite example is the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. Remember the first time you saw it? Thinking: What the hell? Not possible! No! Nooooo! And then: Ohhhhh, I see it now. Of course.

That’s why I love the text message above. I wrote, “How was it?” to my youngest son just after he saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His reaction made me incredibly happy. First, because “AMAZING” is what I’ve been hoping to hear about the movie. Second, because “Not what I expected, but exactly what I expected,” is another way of saying surprising yet inevitable.



7 responses to “Surprising yet inevitable: Here’s the story

  1. Exactly. As if there could be no other alternative, now that you think about it. Hard to achieve, but golden when done correctly!

  2. You son sums it up perfectly. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and I wasn’t sure it matched the hype. But it was perfectly done, and really was what I was expecting. One thing is for sure; I need to see it again!

  3. I also love when seeds of the ending, sown throughout the story, are done so deftly that I want to read the book again to find them, see what I missed, and see how well they were woven into the story. I hate feeling ‘cheated’ when an ending was not hinted at during the book, but I absolutely love being fooled. That feeling at the end, just like you said, when you go, ‘aha!’.

  4. I just started creative writing class when I ran into your blog!
    And this is exactly what my teacher said 😀
    ‘Surprising yet inevitable’

  5. Pingback: Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 | Nonsense, She Wrote

  6. Pingback: Endings Matter in Fiction and Life | EVELYN KRIEGER

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