Surprising, Yet Inevitable

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

Last weekend, El Husbando and I attended a sci-fi convention in Toronto. We’re not huge fans of the convention itself, but one of the guests of honor was author Brandon Sanderson—no way we were going to miss that! Sanderson is best known for finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but we’ve been huge fans since Elantris, so… uh, yeah. A little fangirl/fanboy *squeeing* from both of us.

BetrayalThe convention offered a number of panels on writing speculative fiction, which Sanderson helped to lead. One of the things he said on a panel about writing endings is that the end of your book should be “surprising, yet inevitable.”

I think this particular phrase can also be found on his Writing Excuses podcast, so I don’t know if he necessarily coined the phrase, but it stuck with me… it really, really makes sense!

When you’re writing the ending of your story, the last thing you want is a predictable ending. You don’t want your reader to come to the CLIMAX OF EVERYTHING and then say “oh, I saw that coming a hundred pages ago.”

Instead, you want the reader to realize what’s happening just as the characters realize what’s happening, turn that last page and then think: “Wow, I didn’t expect that… but of COURSE it had to happen that way!”

The ending then informs the rest of what came before it, and the reader realizes that it really couldn’t have happened any other way.

The best example I can think of for this is from one of Sanderson’s own works, the Mistborn series. The end of that trilogy is shocking, unexpected, and yet… all things considered… absolutely, 100% the ONLY way it could have ended.

Now, how you craft those endings is another matter entirely… but the more you write, the more natural this kind of ending will be.

How about you… do you write endings that are “surprising, yet inevitable?”

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2011 at 5:48 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

9 comments so far


Gosh, I hope I do. My husband would tell me otherwise. That is a good phrase to keep in mind–surprising, yet inevitable.

July 21st, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Hah! I hope my husband would tell me otherwise too. :) It’s nice to have someone who can be totally and completely honest about your work!

July 21st, 2011 at 6:20 pm

This totally makes sense, and it’s a great thing to keep in mind.

July 21st, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I’m probably one of the few who thought this about the ending of Mockingjay. It was really the only way things could have realistically gone down.

July 21st, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Great point. The ending to a story should have an element of surprise–but still make sense. It can’t be too out of nowhere.

I wish I could say I did but I’m not sure that’s realistic. LOL.

July 21st, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I’d like to think so, Faith. I also like to hear, “I KNEW that was coming but I was hoping it wasn’t.” I’m doing good if they’re a little surprised.

July 23rd, 2011 at 1:52 am

Isn’t Brandon’s writing amazing? He’s one of my favorite authors, and I think he’s doing a fab job finish WoT. Your description of the end of Mistborn is perfect.

Thanks for sharing this.

July 24th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Sometimes I think that I can conjure this feat, but other times I fall short.

July 25th, 2011 at 6:13 pm

That makes sense to me. Hopefully that will be the way my stories end. It’s the way I’m planning to end them, anyway.


July 26th, 2011 at 3:07 pm