Knowing Where To End Your Story



The other day someone asked on kboards just what they ought to do if they knew where they wanted to END their story, but not where they wanted to START it from.

This is basically how I answered that question.

For me, a story is a little like a journey. It really helps if I know WHERE I want to start off from and WHERE I want to get to. It is kind of like that whole Google Quest map thing where in order to get directions you have to punch in BOTH locations to find out how to get from here to there, providing you don’t mind driving through that brand new school that was built last month and hasn’t made it’s way onto Google Quest yet.


So – if, as in your case, I just DON’T know where I am starting from – I’d probably just try and start from as close a beginning as was humanly possible. Like say I was about to write SAVING PRIVATE RYAN – well, I might start off RIGHT at the Normandy invasion. We got all those bullets flying overhead and the eighty-eight’s whiz-banging past our ears and look over there at the machine gun nest and the bunker with the SCUD missile – oh shoot, that’s an anachronism – and then the landing craft rolling ahead and there’s Tom Hanks sitting in the landing craft thinking to himself hot-dang-but-I-am-sure-going-to-get-myself-an-Oscar-for-this and maybe then he opens up his mouth and says “Life is like a box of land mines.” and by the time I have written old Tom right on up to trying to duel a Tiger tank with a .45 automatic then it might hit me that hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I started this whole thing as Private Ryan all grown up and maybe get Matt Damon looking grown-up (and I know that isn’t possible because Matt Damon NEVER looks grown up) – so we’ll get some other actor to play old fart Matt Damon and I sure that I haven’t spoiled the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it before.


What I am trying to say is just pick a spot and start and by the time you get the end you will most likely figure out that you should have started a whole lot earlier in the storyline- (or, in the case of old fart Damon – a whole lot later) so you can go back in a time machine called second-draft-thinkover – because writing a novel is like a box of chocolates and you NEVER know who gets stuck with that danged maraschino cherry!

Which is all right by me, because I actually LIKE maraschino cherries.

If you want to read the whole thread at kboards just swing on over and have yourself a look.


yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

4 responses to “Knowing Where To End Your Story

  1. Reblogged this on Pearls Before Swine and commented:
    Good advice. I would add that for me even just knowing where my story will END helps me to find my way to the beginning. Usually, if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, then I can write the story.


  2. Dear Steve!

    I liked this post very much!

    May I toss a short story writing question out to you? The answer to this thwarts me, and in spite of seeking an answer is books and magazines for writers, nobody ever seems to touch on it.

    When I set out to tell a story, I usually think I know where I want to begin, where I want to end, and I can even envision scenes along the way. I can see it laid out before me like a train track with stations dotted along the track. So, I set out to tell my story in 2,500 to 5,000 words, and before I know it I’ve hit the 5,000 word limit and my story-train has barely left the station. That’s when I suddenly realize that the short story I want to tell actually wants to be a novella or novel.

    Sometimes I’ve gotten around this problem by starting over and essentially writing what could be seen as a chapter of the longer narrative. Sometimes in the second draft I’ve zeroed in on one specific aspect of the story, wound up my characters, and let them go.

    I don’t always seem to know I’m buying tickets to travel the Transcontinental Railway when all I need is a short-haul ticket to get to my destination.

    Is there a way to know that your story idea is too long? Is there a way, perhaps rules or guidelines to follow, that will allow a writer to forecast the length of the story, and/or control the length to fit into the word limit you seek to fill?

    Thanks and best wishes,



  3. Pingback: Put Your Manuscript on a Diet! | YOURS IN STORYTELLING...

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