Here, the end will be our beginning.
I love a good ending, and odds are, you do too.
Yet mainstream journalism has institutionalized the art of falling off the table. Bruce Desilva, in Telling True Stories, writes that most stories “dribble pitifully to an end” as the “enduring legacy of the inverted pyramid.”
Desilva argues that news briefs are now the only form that truly requires the IP. He also points out that a good ending should accomplish four goals:
1) signal the piece is over
2) reinforce the central point
3) resonate with the reader
4) arrive on time
One is a duh observation; two naturally makes sense; three is a matter of of experience, I’m sure; and four is undoubtedly an art form.
Desilva urges writers to pen the ending first, comparing it to a journey made easier by knowing the destination beforehand.
His logic is solid, but I don’t agree with his premise. It’s much more difficult to color a painting before you’ve drawn the lines. For me, I want a flash-bang, read-it-now lead. That, and the ensuing text/video/media, can inform a great close.
Read that last sentence again, please. “…a great close.”
I may not write it first, but I still seek a phenomenal finish. Desilva is so right, he’s left. Why do we fail our readers with a final paragraph or two that wraps our tale as well as a concrete ribbon?
And who are we, blind sheep, to believe that nobody is reading our pieces completely? Do we truly have that little confidence in ourselves?
I’m the first to admit the growing research/evidence that Americans spend less time with news, online or otherwise. That doesn’t mean we should let our stories end when we’re finished typing all the facts in descending order of importance.
I don’t know many writers who approach a story with the mindset of, “Gosh, I’ve said everything relevant. Guess I’m done.” Yet this must translate to our conscious fingers.
Maybe people don’t finish our stories because we don’t write endings worth reading.
Let’s make a pact to struggle for endings that complete a story more like the final notes of a good beer or wine and less like a glass of water.