You’re writing climax of your book. Your protagonist is facing insurmountable odds or an unsolvable problem. You already know how the protagonist will win through in the end, and he’ll do it by confronting one of his basic flaws. You’re all set!
Now go back and screw it up.
Seriously. Your ending is too smooth, too easy. The climactic moment needs to be a little more complicated, a little more difficult. The original was probably something like this:
1. Final problem rushes toward protagonist. The clock is running out.
2. Protagonist struggles against final problem. He’s losing, probably because a fatal flaw, the one that’s been plaguing him the entire book, is holding him back.
3. Antagonist laughs victoriously. It’s a win for the bad guys!
4. Protagonist forces himself to overcome the fatal flaw. He tackles final problem in one final push.
5. Antagonist howls in horror as his assured victory turns to ashes.
6. Protagonist wins through and exults!
Nope. Too simple. Too predictable. Readers will spot it, and so will editors. Try this:
1-4. As above.
5. Protagonist solves final problem and wins.
6. BUT! Antagonist gets a final push of his own. He does one final thing that will turn the protagonist’s victory to dust (launches the missiles, kills the love interest, starts the time bomb, activates the QED machine, sends the email that will ruin the protagonist forever, whatever).
7. The protagonist now deals with this one final problem WITHOUT his flaws holding him back.
8. The protagonist wins through. Cue fireworks.
Check how many novels do this. This kind of ending drags readers over the edge of their seats.
–Steven Harper Piziks
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