What One Life to Live Taught Me About Endings

Back in November (when I confessed how I loved the reality show Dirty Soap), I shared with you all my love of the daytime soap, One Life to Live. OLTL has been off air for over a week, but I finally brought myself to watch the finale on Sunday night. I watched it with mixed feelings: anticipation over how they were going to tie up a show with a 43 year legacy, sadness over the loss of one of my favorite shows, and annoyance that I’ll have to now watch General Hospital*.

One thing I thought I could learn from watching the OLTL finale was how to effectively create an ending. Maybe the writers would show me a few tricks to know where my final scene is.

What I didn’t anticipate in the final minutes was to see someone who we all believed to be dead. And by all, I even mean the supposed killer thought the victim was dead. My shriek of “WHAT!?” may or may not have startled The Stripey One awake**

While a cliffhanger is a possible way to end a story, I consider it sort of cheating. The reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of learning the whole story. When this type of shit happens in books that I’ve devoted hours (sometimes YEARS***) to, I throw the book. For a story to be satisfying, there needs to be completion. A lot of times the cliffhanger ending brings up several new questions which ultimately belong in a new story.

So how do you know when you have a solid ending? If you plot, you have a framework and an ending in mine. If you don’t, you relying more on luck. This is what I’m struggling with on my revisions for Falling to Normal. None of my endings are satisfying, which  means that I’m ending in the wrong place.

The only way to fix something like this is trial and error. And some trucker language. Maybe wine. Lots of it. One thing is definite, I’m not going to have someone come back from the dead in the last minutes.

Tell me, Lurkdom: how do you create the best ending possible?


* Only because a few of my favorite characters from OLTL are moving over in February. That will be interesting.

** It’s my belief that I’ll learn more about that particular bombshell in February when the OLTL characters move over, but until then I’ll scowl whenever I think of it.

*** I’m looking at you, Stephen King.