Three Reasons Why Stories Can Have Alternative Endings

Although I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this before, I thought that I’d look at the topic of alternative endings today.

This is mostly because the webcomic mini series that is appearing here at the moment will have a somewhat different ending to the one that I’d originally planned for it (basically, the last five and a half panels of the mini series will be different to my original plans).

So, I thought that I’d look at a few of the many reasons why stories can have “alternative endings”:

1) Placeholders and backups: When you are planning a story, actually finishing the plan is often the most important part. So, having a mediocre “placeholder” ending that you can change later is better than having nothing.

Having an ending, even a crappy one, planned out in advance means that you don’t have to worry about writer’s block. It also means that, if you feel a bit more inspired, you can change it to something a bit better. In other words, it’s a backup in case you can’t think of a better idea. It takes some of the pressure off of you.

So, sometimes an “alternative ending” can just be a placeholder ending that is there to ensure that writer’s block isn’t an issue. Or it can be the result of feeling more inspired about halfway through telling the story.

2) Characters, tone and contrivance: Although I don’t want to spoil the ending of my mini series, I should point out that something didn’t quite feel right about my original planned ending. At the time, I couldn’t quite work out what it was – but something felt slightly “off” about my original plans.

A while later, I realised that it was because this ending wasn’t in keeping with the emotional tone of my webcomic. Although it seemed “clever” and “cynically humourous” on paper, it evoked exactly the opposite of the emotions that I’d been aiming to evoke in my comic.

In addition to this, I also realised that I’d tried to think of a “clever” ending at the expense of my characters. So much of the original planned ending felt like I was trying to shoehorn my characters into a story that they didn’t really fit into. In other words, it felt less like the story was emerging from the characters and more like I was barking orders at them and ignoring who they actually are. In other words, it felt extremely contrived.

Getting to know whether an ending fits in with your characters can take a bit of experience but, if something feels “off” about your planned ending then this can sometimes be a sign that it’s an ending which ignores how your characters would actually act, react, think or feel. And, if your planned ending feels like this, then it’s usually worth coming up with an ending that doesn’t.

3) Plot holes: Sometimes an ending needs to be changed because you’ve spotted a giant plot hole in your plans. If there’s some obvious reason why the original ending wouldn’t make logical sense or if it relies on an element of the story that falls apart if you think about it too much, then changing the ending can be a way to limit the damage caused by this.

Patching a plot hole by deliberately exposing it and then working around it can be a great way to add a more satisfying, amusing, dramatic etc… ending to a story than just ignoring the plot hole and hoping that your audience won’t notice it. It’s a way to respect the audience’s intelligence.

So, sometimes, a story can have multiple endings because a new ending needed to be created in order to patch a plot hole.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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