How NOT to end a story

This is as much a rant as any sort of writerly advice, so fair warning on that. Also, if you have not watched the television series Prisonbreak (and I highly recommend you do), and you intend to, do NOT read further, as I mention the end of the series here. Sooo…onward.

I raved about this show last post, and honestly, I still will, should anyone care to ask. It has some of the best story writing I’ve seen in a long time, at least on television. After about a week, my wife and I finished off all 80 episodes. Netflix is awesome. Anyway, after 80 episodes, which was edge of the seat entertainment with fabulous characters and one twist and reveal after another, it came down to the last five minutes, which was a “four years later” kind of epilogue, and the hero of the story was dead. Yes, that’s right. DEAD. During the story it comes out that he has a brain tumor. It’s operated on, and you believe it’s fixed. Right before the epilogue, you see him with a nose bleed, which was the physical indication of the tumor previously. Next thing we see of him? Tombstone. The other characters put flowers on his grave and walk off into the sunset. After enduring hell and finally winning, the hero gets to die. Nothing so glorious as dying while taking out the bad guy, just a “and then he died.” My writerly advice on this? DON”T DO IT!!! Unless of course your aim is to royally piss off the reader. In that case, feel free.

I’m still reeling from this gaff. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around just wtf the writers were thinking when they decided to end it this way. I’m guessing they were going for the sentimental, “Awww, he died saving the world.” It failed. If this was a book, I’d have hurled it across the room. It’s one thing if you have a hero with mixed morals, who struggles with doing some bad things to achieve the just goals. This hero was not that. This was a hero conflicted by the fact that so much harm was coming to people around him as he tried to solve the dilemma he found himself in. He risked failure many times to save people. And in the end, he did not get what he deserved. If you are going to write this type of story, you  have to justifiable reasons to end it the way you do. This story ran with the happy ending for the hero the entire way. He deserved it and needed it as reward for enduring until the end. Some stories play out the “life isn’t fair” story and “bad things happen to good people,” but this was not one of them. You just don’t have the hero in this kind of story die ignominously in the end. To do so lets the reader down.

Regardless, the show rocks as some of the best television ever made. Watch it if you haven’t, and see if you agree with me. Just be forewarned of the epic failure in the end. Happy reading/writing everyone.

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4 responses to “How NOT to end a story

  1. LOVE Prison Break. Have it on DVD and will get it out and watch the entire thing every once in a while. I didn’t like the ending either. But I also heard there’s an additional movie? Like a straight-to-DVD hour or two add-on? I haven’t seen that. Perhaps Michael’s not really dead? I don’t know. I’ll eventually watch it and find out. I agree, though, some of the best TV writing ever!

    • There is an additional movie, which gives you the details about how Michael went out. To me it didn’t really fix anything. He deserved to live a free life and raise his kid, at least for a while.

  2. I hate endings that blow you out of the water in a negative way. I also hate the fact you say it carried on over four years and without warning it just ended. You take all that time and effort to write a story and get tired of writing so you rush the ending, whatever it may be. BTW, to change the subject, I am enjoying the heck out of your book. Awesome novel. I recommend it highly.

    • Well, the ending wasn’t rushed as far as that goes. The fact that he died though came out of nowhere. There was a hint beforehand if you were paying attention, but regardless, his death was a surprise. It’s not until the tv movie follow up several months later that you saw what actually happened, which gave him more of a heroic end than was implied in the finale, but it didn’t really fix it for me. And glad you’re enjoying my story!