We talk a lot about first impressions in our day-to-day lives. You want to make a good first impression when you meet new people, or when you go for a job interview. The same goes for stories – you want your first chapter, first scene, or first episode to be a good one so that your audience is interested in seeing more.
What I think is less talked about is the importance of final impressions. They are just as, if not even more important than a first impression. A bad opening might scare your audience away, but a bad finale can ruin all of the work you’ve done so far. A poorly-written ending will live on forever as a disappointment in the minds of fans – especially in the age of the internet.
But how do you write a satisfying finale? And I mean satisfying – not necessarily “happy” – an ending that will leave your audience feeling like they just had a full serving of their favorite meal.
Today, I’m looking at two of my favorite TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (you’ll forgive me if I use acronyms for the rest of the post). Not only is each series consistently good throughout its run, but they also both end on what I feel is a satisfying note.
I’ve talked about both series before in passing, but since we’re talking about finales, it’s important that you understand each story’s premise as well. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
When Stranger Things started garnering hype on the internet in 2016, I sent a text to my mom telling her she should watch it. She enjoyed shows with vague paranormal/alternate universe stuff like Fringe, and from what I could tell, Stranger Things was right up her alley. I wasn’t all that interested. I was midway through the first semester of my first year of college, and I preferred to spend my limited free time writing or gaming.
And then within a week of me telling my mom to watch Stranger Things, she messaged me and insisted that I give the show a try. And because I’m a good child (most days, at least), I listened to my mother.
Whatever I thought Stranger Things was going to be, it was so much better.
The Netflix Original series, created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, takes place in 1983 in the small, midwestern town of Hawkins, Indiana. The premise is simple enough: a young boy vanishes without a trace, and mysterious events begin taking place around the town. Combining an engaging sci-fi world with 1980s nostalgia set Stranger Things apart, but beyond that, the show features strong writing, dynamic characters, and a fascinating story.
With Season 3 of Stranger Things being recently released, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the show’s first season and analyze what we can learn from it.
Beware – Spoilers for Season 1 of Stranger Things below!
There’s a stereotype of children’s entertainment being overly simplified and poorly written, and unfortunately, that’s true for a lot of children’s shows. Every so often though, there comes someone who puts time and effort into what they create, because they understand that children can be just as smart and perceptive as adults.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of those shows, and today I want to talk about just a few of the things we writers – even adult writers – can learn from it.
I just recently finished rereading one of my favorite book series, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter. The series takes place at an all-girls school for young geniuses where the students are trained for future work as scientists, analysts, spies and other high-level government jobs. In the meantime, however, the girls are still navigating everyday life (they’re just doing quantum physics instead of high school biology).
Not only is the Gallagher Girls series one of my favorites, but it’s also a very well-written series of books. There are a lot of elements that make the Gallagher Girls amazing, and so today, I’d like to share some of the biggest writing lessons I’ve learned from this wonderful series.
In this series, I’ve already covered writing lessons from books, video games, and even a musical. As you can probably tell, I like to draw from some unconventional sources, because I believe that anything can teach us about writing, from books to movies to music to video games. They all tell stories, just in different ways.
Wolves At The Gate (WATG) is a hardcore band from Cedarville, Ohio. I first saw them when they opened for RED a few years ago, and I saw them more recently at Uprise Fest last year. Though I love many hardcore bands, there are few that I’ve really connected with like WATG, and they’ve become one of my favorites. Not only does their music sound amazing, but the lyrics and themes are so artfully put together, and so today, I’d like to talk about what writing lessons we can learn from their music.
Note: I know many in my audience aren’t fans of hardcore music, so I’ll be providing links to lyrics and to the songs themselves. Feel free to listen to them, but you won’t be missing out on the point of the post if you would rather just read the lyrics.
The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that has been around since the beginning of video games. The first entry in the series featured a massive overworld like nothing the world had seen before, and since then, the land of Hyrule has just gotten bigger and better. The Zelda franchise has become my go-to inspiration anything involving worldbuilding, especially fantasy settings like my story for this year’s NaNoWriMo. No matter what game you’re playing, the Zelda series has some great examples of excellent worldbuilding. I’ve learned a lot from these games, and so today, I’d like to share that with you.
So what worldbuilding aspects does The Legend of Zelda do well?
Not long ago, I was listening to Hamilton: An American Musical non-stop all the way through, and while I was listening, I realized three fundamental (writing) truths at the exact same time.
Forced references aside, for those unfamiliar with it, Hamilton is a hip-hop musical that tells the story of the American historical figure Alexander Hamilton. The musical gained popularity when it first debuted on Broadway in 2015 due to its unique music, diverse cast, fascinating story, and modern relevancy. I’ve been interested in it for a few months now, and while listening to it, I’ve noticed there are a lot of great storytelling lessons to be learned from it.
Hamilton is heavily based on historical events, and for the most part is accurate to the facts. However, it is still fictionalized in some ways, and for the purpose of this blog post, I’m focusing on the way that characters, events, and storytelling is presented in the musical. If I say something that’s inaccurate to history, just remember that I’m solely basing these observations on the musical.
Also, as a minor disclaimer: if you haven’t listened to Hamilton before, there are a number of instances with crude language, so just know that going in.
First things first, we need some good background music. This is most definitely not a ploy to get you to listen to one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Not at all.
Way back in May of last year, I read a book titled Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson which I really enjoyed. After reading it, I noticed that there were writing lessons that could be gathered from the story, and I compiled those ideas into a blog post I called “Writing Lessons from Steelheart.” Since then, I haven’t written any more “Writing Lessons” blog posts, but that changes today.
As you may or may not know, I am slightly obsessed with enjoy a series of video games called Ace Attorney. To make a long story short, you play as Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney, as he investigates crimes and defends the innocent from wrongful convictions. As you can imagine, these games don’t feature a lot of fast-paces gameplay – instead, they focus more on puzzle-solving and logical thinking as you put the pieces of the case together and determine the truth.
Because of this, Ace Attorney happens to be heavily story-driven. It’s like reading a mystery novel, except you’re the main character. With all of the story and narration involved in these games, it makes sense that there are a lot of writing lessons that can be learned from them.
Since there are a lot of games in this series, I’m just going to focus on the first three, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice for All, and Trials & Tribulations, which actually fit together like a trilogy. I vaguely hint at a few plot points, but I did my best to keep everything spoiler-free. Without further ado, here are some writing lessons from the Ace Attorney Trilogy!