“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir
How long can you continue a story before it has to come to an end? It’s a tough question to answer. Some end their stories when they run out of steam and tire of writing while others end when the story has completely run its course.
Unfortunately, there are those who try to force the story to continue long after it has run its course. Either due to monetary gain or because they simply can’t let the characters go. We see this today, mainly in movies, but also in some literature as well.
Perhaps the most classic version of a forced sequel was the Aeneid. It was a second sequel to the Iliad that, at least in my opinion, did not need to be written. So why then did it happen? Well for starters, this wasn’t written by the same person. The Iliad was Homer’s work while the Aeneid was that of Virgil. It was written during a time of major reforms in the Roman Empire and the poem was meant to reflect that.
So we have several reasons now for forced sequels, and we’ve seen what bad can happen when characters are called back into action from their happily ever after. (See my post about Sequels for more info.)
So when do you let a story end? Well that really depends on what type of story it is, how many characters your plan on introducing, over how long do you plan on introducing these characters, and how much do you plan on putting them through?
Let’s explore each of these, shall we?
First off, the type of story…
If you’re writing a story that’s meant to take place over the span of a few days to a few weeks of time and not proceed outside of that, then it may be best to let it end at that point. It tends to be considered bad form to push it further by creating yet another obstacle at the last-minute when every other loose end has been tied up.
In another instance if this is a story that’s meant to span several years and perhaps different lifetimes, you’re probably not going to have much trouble keeping it going for quite a while.
So when do you end it? Well the answer is simply, when it feels right to you. Once you feel that you’ve tied up all the loose ends and everything is right (or wrong) with the world, then you should have no problem ending it.
I would caution going back after the fact, however. Once everything is complete and all is as it should be, going back with new plot lines that you just thought up can be ill-advised.
If you are tempted to do this, ask yourself this first… Is it necessary to drag out the old characters whose plot lines are complete? Is it necessary to violate relationships that two minutes ago were solid? Would it not be better to create new characters in new walks of life and new stories to unfold rather than taking the easy route?
If you can answer these questions to your satisfaction and keep the storyline going, then go for it. If not, it might be time to start anew.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
Catch you on the flip side!