by Lisa Bullard
One of life’s great satisfactions is returning home after a long journey. We rejoice in the familiar clasp of our own bed, in the bracing taste of our home air. Everything seems comfortingly the same, yet also fresh and remarkable.
This is because, even if home has stayed the same, journeying has changed us. The cat’s suspicious investigation of our foreign smell conﬁrms it: We have returned to the place our old self lived, altered by the world. You can go home again, but it will be a different “you” that you bring there.
This thinking comes in useful when I talk with students about story endings. Strong story endings have two important elements. Even young writers seem to intuitively grasp the ﬁrst: some kind of satisfying resolution to whatever conflict the character is facing.
But students often overlook the second element. That element focuses on the way the character has been transformed by facing the conflict. How have they been changed by taking the long and complicated journey through the story?
A story that doesn’t include this second element is easily forgotten. The stories that do explore character transformation can linger in our imaginations long after we’ve returned the book to the library. Moments from these tales may periodically spring up to surprise us, like the unexpected whiff of suntan lotion the next time you open the Miami suitcase.
Here’s a way to explain it to your students: A merry-go-round only circles us back to the place where we started. But before the ride is over, we’ve been through a whole lot of ups and downs. A ride like that alters a person.
Great story endings have two parts: First, the writer gets the character off the horse. Then, the writer shows us how taking that wild ride has changed the character forever.