Monday, November 7, 2016

Session 15 (Personal Narrative)

Ending Stories in Meaningful Ways

"There is no right or wrong approach to crafting a story's ending, but a good story needs and deserves a good ending" Lucy Calkins

Good endings provoke strong emotional responses, sometimes causing readers to cheer, sometimes causing readers to sob.

Good endings are the ones that inspire readers to think and feel and live a little differently.

Writers use ending to resolve problems, but endings also tie back to the big meaning of the story and leave readers with a final message.

"As I've been thinking about what my story is really about, I've realized that we must talk about how author's resolve their stories."

"Endings are about tying up and completing your story, but strong ending also have the power to make your reader understand your story's big meaning in deeper, more complicated ways.  Your ending are the last words you leave with your reader.  They must resonate and bring your whole message to light."

*Reread the ending of a known book*

"Today I want to teach you that you can write an ending that leaves your reader with profound understandings. Writers think back to what they tried hardest to express through their stories and ask, 'What do I want my readers to truly understand about my journey, as a character in this story?'  Then they write an ending that reveals this to the reader."

Writers, ask themselves this important question:

"What is my story really about? 

Let me show you what I mean:

Remember Lucy Calkins' story about ruining her dad's garden?

...I squeezed the crushed purple petals in my hand, afraid to watch his friendly greeting dissolve into anger and disappointment.  “And why shouldn’t it?” I chastised myself, “He trusted you to be in charge, and look what you did.”  A few feet from me, Dad stopped suddenly.  As he put the crate of new plants down heavily, his eyes traveled over the ruined flower bed and then stopped on me.  I was expecting to see fury etched into his face, but instead it was a look of bewilderment and even worse, hurt.

“Dad…” my voice broke as I tried to apologize, “I’m sorry.  I’ll fix it, I promise.”  Dad swallowed and nodded.  I could tell he was having trouble finding his words.  He nodded again, still silent, and pulled me into his arms. 

Revised Ending:

“Dad…” my voice broke as I tried to apologize, “I’m sorry.  I’ll fix it, I promise.”
(This shows actions and words)

Dad swallowed and nodded.  Then he looked away from the wrecked garden and fixed his eyes on my teary face.  Placing his strong hand on my heaving shoulders, he said gently but firmly, “You made a huge mess, you really did—these flowers are ruined.”                                                                                               
(This shows more what dad does and how he feels)

A wave of shame rolled through me, and I looked down.  Dad was quiet for a moment before he pulled me into his arms and murmured into the top of my head.  “But you’ll help me.  We will fix it, we’ll make it nice again.”
(This ending shows how even when dad is disappointed – he doesn’t push away – he is still there for her—which is what her story is really about)

Active Engagement:
"I want you to try now.  Take out your drafts and start by reminding yourself what your story is really, really about.  As a character in your narrative, what were you wanting or struggling with?  When you're ready, turn and talk to your partner about how you might revise your ending to bring forth what your story is truly about."

Add 'Craft an ending that delivers a powerful message' to the Anchor Chart: How to write powerful personal narratives.

Take the very last lines of your story and prepare to read just the last bit to the group.
Sit in a circle and share without stopping so that we will create our own class poem of sorts with all our powerful endings combined into one.

"Did you feel how powerful those lines from your endings are?  I am proud! You should be too!"


  • Continue to revise your ending by creating different versions of your ending, much like you did for your lead
  • Revisit your lead and see if that needs any revision.  Does it set readers up to understand what is going to be most important in your story? Does it grab your readers' attention and begin right at the start of the action?

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