Narrative Writing


Tragic Endings

Your hero has worked doggedly toward her goal, without success, and now, having made one final, valiant effort, she fails.

The End.

Is it satisfying?

It could be . . . if your story has a powerful theme (life lesson).

Here is an example:

The year is 1914. Germany has just declared war against France. Paul, a German high school student, is inspired by the patriotic speeches of his teacher to join the army. He is full of enthusiasm for the war. He thinks that war is the best way for young men to prove their courage, valor, and patriotism. He wants to be a hero.

Gosh, is Paul in for a surprise! When he gets to the trenches of the Western Front, he learns that war is an endless cycle of terror, misery, hunger, cold, pain, and suffering. All his friends die, one by one, and their deaths seem pointless and absurd.

Finally, the war is almost over, and Paul is looking forward to going home. On a peaceful day, Paul reaches out of his trench to touch a butterfly. And that's when he is shot dead by an enemy sniper.

That is the plot of a very famous book, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. The tragic ending is one of the things that makes this book so powerful. If you read the book, you'll come away thinking: Gosh, what a valuable lesson! I learned that war is not nearly as heroic or glamorous as I thought it was!

Key Point:

If you're going to write a tragedy, try to give your story a deeper meaning. No one wants to read a story that is merely about a hero who tried and failed. But people do appreciate tragic endings that seem to say something deep about the human condition.

What is the theme of your story? What are you trying to say about life? What are you trying to say about society? What is the moral of your story? If your theme is clear, your ending will be satisfying.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.