Well, when I was writing one of the short stories that were posted here last Halloween (and, yes, I write these articles very far in advance), it ended up having both an “official” ending and a previously unpublished alternate ending (which I’ll include at the very end of this article).
Since alternate endings are something that occasionally shows up in the special features segments DVDs and even in other formats like comics (although this is fairly rare). I thought that I’d look at some of the reasons why they appear. After all, what’s the point of having another ending?
Well, here are a few reasons (out of many) why this happens:
1) Something went wrong: The reason why my short story ended up having two possible endings was because the very first ending was absolutely awful! You can see it for yourself at the end of this article.
In summary, the final plot twist lacked any kind of instant impact and there was also a plot hole so large that you could drive a bus through it. If I didn’t want to ruin the entire story, I needed to come up with another ending. And I did.
So, alternate endings can often happen because something has gone so wrong with the original ending that the writer needs to replace it with something better.
2) It’s a byproduct of the creative process: Even if a writer or a comic maker doesn’t actually make an alternate ending for their latest project, there’s a reasonable chance that they’ve probably thought about at least one or two of them.
Coming up with a good ending can be one of the most challenging parts of writing a story or making a comic.
After all, a good ending needs to either give the reader a sense of resolution, provoke a strong emotional reaction and/or make them eager to read the next thing you make. It’s very easy to write a mediocre ending if you aren’t careful (and this is a mistake I’ve probably made a few times).
As such, when you’re planning something, it’s possible that you might think of a couple of way that it could end. You might even plan for your story or comic to end in one particular way, only to think of a better idea a while before the ending actually needs to be made.
3) Other people don’t like the ending: Even if the ending is really good, it might be something that the audience, publishers, film studios etc… might not like. People who have no experience with telling the original story might think that they know better than the writer and, if they have the power to, might take it upon themselves to alter the ending.
Even though this is a much rarer thing than in the 1980s and 1990s, there are plenty of Hollywood films from that time that have alternate endings purely because uncreative studio executives insisted on tampering with the film if they felt that the ending was too ambiguous or pessimistic. “Blade Runner” and “Army Of Darkness” are the classic cinematic examples of this trend.
4) Retconning: If you’ve never heard the word “retcon” before, it’s an abbreviation of “retroactive continuity”. What this means is that, if a story that was planned as a stand-alone story ends up becoming something larger, then the backstory of later stories might be changed in order to reflect this.
Likewise, if a writer revisits their earlier works, they might also alter details of the original story in order to make it fit in better with the later ones. This can result in alternate endings.
For example, the author David Morrell wrote a novel called “First Blood” that ended up being turned into a film of the same name. The book and the film end in very different ways. But, when the film got a sequel, Morrell was responsible for writing the novelisation – which resulted in an author’s note explaining that the second novel follows on from the ending of the first film, rather than the ending of his original novel. In other words, the original ending to the first novel is now an “unofficial” alternate ending.
Anyway, as promised, here’s the alternate ending to the short story I posted here last Halloween. This ending begins directly after the shopkeeper’s line of dialogue that ends with”….You’re probably best staying in here as long as possible.”
Steve burst into laughter. I found it hard not to laugh too. Sitting behind that counter all day probably gave her time to think of all sorts of clever tricks to play on the customers. It’s what I’d do in that situation anyway.
Finally, Steve said: ‘Good one!‘ before taking the receipt and walking away. I thanked the woman, she just stared back wearily and handed me the clothes. I caught up with Steve outside. He was checking his phone – the clock on it had suddenly jumped forwards twenty minutes.
‘So, how do you think she did it?‘ I asked. ‘If you noticed, neither of our phones had any signal too. I’m guessing that a faraday cage was probably involved.’
‘Whatever, I just need to stop off at the offy before we get home. We need wine too.‘ He looked at the off-licence across the road. Smiling at me, he strode over the kerb. It must have been the noise, or possibly even instinct, but my arm shot out and I pulled him back seconds before a red car whizzed past inches from his waist.
He hyperventilated for a few minutes. So did I. Finally, he burst into laughter again and said: ‘No fate but that which we make for ourselves, huh? I knew that shopkeeper was having us on! Anyway, let’s get some wine. I can’t drink too much tonight though, because of that bloody business trip tomorrow. Would you believe that I have to car-share with Trish from accounts. She practically lives on Twitter! I mean, I’ve never seen her look at anything other than her phone.’
‘You’ll be in #hell with a #hangover, I guess ?‘ I laughed.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂