Monday, September 9, 2013


End of Day - George Inness

When I was a lad of about thirteen, I read this series called the 'Animorphs'. They were the coolest thing to me. The plot revolved around a group of teenagers who had to fight an alien invasion using shapeshifting powers. It was amazing. I devoured it ravenously. Finally, I came to the last book in the series and read it eagerly. I was in for a shock.

There was no ending.

Or rather, there was an ending, but no resolution. After writing sixty someodd books, the author killed two of the main characters then ended the series right in the middle of a battle scene. There was no theme, not message. Just utter pointlessness. The sadness I felt as a thirteen year old was crushing.

So how to wrap up a story?

Wrapping up a story can is difficult, mostly because there are two pathways to avoid. Especially for the Christian novelist. There are two endings that are very easy for a writer to use, but it's usually the result of laziness and the author not being willing to resolve things efficiently. These two different endings are both very familiar to modern writers, the unresolved ending and deus ex machina. 

The unresolved ending is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a plot with no resolution. Apparently in our postmodern world it's considered 'artistic' to leave things unresolved because that demonstrates the meaningless of life. Well if life is meaningless... why write? Why do anything for that matter?

On the other hand, deus ex machina is cheap resolution. The fact is, resolution is never easy. If the resolution to your story is easy, then it's probably not a story worth telling anyway. I say that with caution. I might be wrong. 

These are basically two categories of authorial laziness. Deus ex machina is giving a cheap resolution to your plot, and unresolved ending is not giving a good resolution at all. A good ending is a happy medium, where some things get tied up nicely, others a little more loosely, and some not at all. Black and white, but also grey, just like real life.


  1. That is the dumbest ending ever. =P

    I do think that endings can leave large mysteries hanging and not resolve some resolutions, though, if done well. I'm thinking here particularly of Inception, where [SPOILER ALERT] whether or not Cobb actually returned to the real world is left deliberately hanging. However, the way this was done, it was done in a very well-done way. So I think leaving a resolution hanging can work if it's done deliberately and masterfully (though not as a cop-out.)

    Animorphs, on the other hand, does not seem to fit that description. =P

    1. I think I would differentiate leaving something hanging from purposeful non resolution. The former actually has a point while the latter is really honestly terrible.

    2. You could say Cobb was "living the dream". *cough* XD

      But agreed. You can have resolution with a twist. Doesn't mean the ending is pointless.

  2. I'll be honest, the only reason I read this was because I saw on G+ that you mentioned Animorphs in the beginning! ;)