It’s not something planned, but I always imagine the end of a story I’m writing before settling on the beginning. How do I want my protagonist to have changed for the better? Which other characters do I want to appear with her in the final chapter and scenes? Just how bittersweet do I want the ending to be, and who or what do I want her to have lost when the end comes?
My personal library of books on the writing craft has grown to include several by James Scott Bell. The latest is Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, and it’s a great tool for someone like me who is a “tweener.” I don’t write by the seat of my pants, but neither do I outline. Chapter summaries work best for me because I like to write the beginning, middle, and end and then fill in to tie them all together.
That’s where Mr. Bell’s book has been helpful. He describes the middle of a good story (novel or movie) as having a “magical midpoint moment.” The main character looks at herself “in the mirror,” either literally or figuratively. This is a hard look, one in which she reflects on the kind of person she is or has become, how she might (or might not) be responsible for some of her own troubles, and what she might have to do to overcome her challenges. In a plot-driven novel, that mirror moment must show the protagonist considering the awfulness of the antagonistic forces against which she must fight and risk death of some sort–physical, professional, or psychological.
“Mirror moment” is so descriptive, it’s one of those elements of story that I will probably never forget now that I’ve heard the term used. I will look for it in others’ work as well as my own.
If I know why and how, and at what cost, I want my protagonist to change by the end of my novel, it makes sense to set up a “mirror moment” for her somewhere in the middle as soon as possible. It’s the place where I should see (and later the reader will see) the entire narrative pulled together in one character. If my writing has somehow failed to place the reader in deep point-of-view with the protagonist anywhere else in the story, I certainly don’t want to fail with this opportunity!
Do you recall a mirror moment from a favorite book or movie? Have you ever created an ending for a story before writing the rest of it?