One Way


We were seated at the feet of the Great Writer who at 37 already had three novels published, the latest of which had just won the Booker Prize as it was then known.

“I will tell you a secret,” he said. “one which is not really a secret. It has been known for millennia but it has been largely overlooked and forgotten. Aristotle first taught it in his ‘Poetics.’. It is the principle of Endings. “

We leant forward. I had my notebook ready. “The ending,” he said, “is written in the beginning. There should be only one way a story can end. The challenge for any writer is to surprise the audience with the inevitability of everything that happens. There is no such thing as alternative endings. I repeat, there is only one way a story can end.”


do you agree with that? Is there only one way to end a story?

can you think of a story — fairy tale, parable, short story, film — that could have ended in a way different to how it did?

have you read Salman Rushdie’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’?

9 thoughts on “One Way

  1. Ooh good question. I’m not usually someone who is ‘surprised’ by their own characters but I’ve certainly changed my ending halfway through a story before. Then again, probably best to defer to Mr. Rushdie’s knowledge on these things. He beats my Booker Prize score by some distance 😉

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  2. I do sometimes have doubts between two or several endings in a story, but I guess in the end (no pun intended… or was it?) they become different stories depending on what end I choose. I personally like to know where the story is going as fast as possible when I write, I need to know it’s going somewhere, or else I easily get lost. It still might end quite differently than I imagined, though.

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  3. the same with the poems I write, the ones with a punch line, it is much easier and the writing is stronger, more authoritative if you have a sense of an ending; the more fun ones, because they are spontaneous, are those with no sense of an ending at first but one which appears when you are playing with a concept, like ‘feet’ or ‘beanies’


  4. In the novel I’m working on at the moment, I have written the ending, which may or may not remain as the end. It feels ‘right’, at the moment, but I still have more work to go, filling the bits in the middle and tying many random seeming bits together …

    But I reread the ending there yesterday when I was at a writer lock in, and I surprised myself with the ending, which I wrote a long time ago. This novel has been ‘in progress’ since 2016. The working title is “Talloola Travails”, but I don’t know whether that will be the final title …


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