For me, there is never a point where the story is over. Whenever I think I am writing the next chapter, I always know what is going to happen next. In the case of my latest NaNoNovel, The Eden Experiment, every time I reached my intended stopping point, it felt like I hadn’t told enough of the story. They power shut down because of the riots on the outside. Did I give enough “footage” of the destruction? They got back to the Garden. I finally ended the story with their promise that they would live out the five year plan, as they were supposed to anyway, before venturing out into the world again.
This wasn’t the finishing point, either, but for my purposes, it had to be. The problem is, to me, all these characters have lives and futures. They do not cease to exist after the five days of the story. This protagonist – Opal Finch – has a relatively bright future. She is going to marry her partner Erik in an unconventional, barefooted ceremony, and have two little boys. She is going to finish raising her little sister Rhian, who is going to grow up and become one of the leaders of the new world in her late adulthood. Her boys will explore what is left of America and discover food and other civilizations that outlasted their own and have not fallen into a state of chaos. Even when Opal is gone, her story goes on. But it would take a lifetime to tell her story… and of course, Opal is not my only character filled with life.
However, it is important that I step away from this incredible future and focus on the present. What is happening now to Opal and where is the ending of this chapter of her life? For me, I always choose an ending when things may not be perfect, but everyone is on good terms, and there is a sliver of hope. It’s not happily every after, but perhaps it could be. The problem with this approach, however, is that I always feel pressured to write a sequel.
How do you end a story that seems to go on forever? Do your characters take on a life of their own? Let me know in the comments below!