You know that moment in a book or movie, near the end, where everything has gone terribly wrong? All has been lost, the main character appears to have been brutally defeated, the mentor has probably kicked the bucket, and generally things couldn’t look bleaker?
Writing feels like that moment.
Or more accurately, one point in the writing process feels akin to that dark night. It’s that time after the intrepid writer has pushed through the first draft of the story – they’ve brainstormed the development process, sailed through the beginning, blazed through the middle – and then quite suddenly …everything falls apart.
And this despair can be summed up in one soul-crushing sentence: “What happens at the end?"
The writer realizes that they don’t know. A giddy optimism has propelled them thus far, a chipper little voice in the back of their head assuring "Don’t worry about the end yet! It’ll sort itself out!”
That little happy voice, it turns out, is a liar.
But your reign of terror is over, lying voice. There’s a way to fix it so you can never trick another writer again. Because knowing what happens at the end comes down to knowing something right in the beginning: knowing three integral facets of the main character. If you know this golden trio, you’ll have a much better chance of knowing exactly what happens at the end: because the end is all about these three.
So what are these three things?
GOAL: What the main characters wants, and will pursue throughout the story, overcoming all obstacles and enemies to obtain.
WANT: Their reasons for wanting it, which is usually to fill some emotional void they sense in their lives, something they believe will fix life and make it complete.
NEED: What they TRULY require to fill that emotional void, to be complete.
Yup, three of the things listed in that other post “10 Elements of a Main Character”. But now, we’re going to delve into more detail, the elements of a good Goal, a good Want, and a good Need.
So what goes into a story GOAL? Goals should be …
SINGULAR: The character must have one objective, and only one. A desire, and the overcoming of obstacles to achieve it, form the spine of the story. If there are two, the character is split between two storylines; they are trying to balance two stories at once, confusing them and confusing the reader.
TANGIBLE: The goal must be something REAL. Something we can see and feel.
SPECIFIC: In addition to being tangible, it must be highly specific. If the goal was to “escape” it would have to be “escape to a definite destination”. It can’t be at all vague or easily fulfilled by many objects: it must be finding a specific object, winning a specific prize, getting to a specific destination, etc.
Like in Tangled: The goal is “see the floating lights.”
NOT EMOTIONS/STATES OF MIND: The goal can’t be something like “happiness” or “belonging” or “love.” Those aren’t tangible, they’re not specific, and most of all the reader can’t envision it being achieved. The goal CAN be a physical representation of an emotional state; obtaining this specific and physical objective will mean achieving the emotional state.
IMAGINABLE: We should be able to easily envision the main character achieving the goal. When we see it, we know it’s happening, know that everything has been building to this moment.
Like in Monsters Inc, we know what getting Boo back home is going to look like (though in the beginning, we don’t know that it’s going to be heartbreaking.)
NOBLE: The goal should be something the reader can cheer on. The reader understands why the main character wants it. The reader can relate to the goal, and the emotional reason behind it.
Cheer like this.
STAKES: If they fail, something will be lost. If they choose not to pursue the goal, things will be very bad. There can’t be a sense that if they stop going after the goal at any point, life could just go back to how it was. When the catalyst came in and shattered their ordinary world and everyday routine, the story entered the realm of “nothing will ever be the same” and the only way to restore order to their universe is to achieve this thing. And that thing that will be lost must be something we can relate to, something significant: love, safety, family, life, future, freedom, loved ones.
What goes into the WANT? The want is…
CONNECTED TO GHOST: The ghost is a moment from their past that still haunts them, and is the source of their moral and psychological weaknesses. Their reasons for wanting the goal should be connected to this moment. They believe that if they achieve it, their world will be fixed, life will go back to how it was before this haunting moment occurred.
MISGUIDED: And they’re usually always wrong. Achieving the goal just as it is will never fix what’s broken in their lives.
SAVING GRACE: It’s often this Want behind their goal that acts as their saving grace in the eyes of the reader. Sometimes it’s hard to connect with a character – they’re difficult to understand, easy to find unappealing, even downright unpleasant – until we know why they are the way they are. (Think Marlin from Finding Nemo; he’s pretty unlikable and frustrating half the time, but we know why he’s behaving that way, so it’s easier to forgive him.)
What do all of these character NEEDS have in common?
HOW TO FIX LIFE: In their pursuit of the tangible goal, something else is revealed that will truly save their lives. This is some truth that will banish the power of the ghost, let the character see themselves clearly for the first time, and show them what needs to be done to live a better life in the future. This usually arrives right after that “Dark Night” moment, which is usually when the goal has been achieved or lost; the truth revealed in this moment will allow them to snatch victory from this darkest defeat, renew their courage, inspire them to soldier on and pursue the story goal once more.
NEW WORLDVIEW: This crucible of battle and revelation of truth changes them. They’re not the same person anymore. They’ve conquered the thing that haunts them, overcome weaknesses, have greater knowledge of themselves and life.
Okay! So how does this work? Let’s use Wreck-It Ralph, because I’m in the mood.
What is Ralph’s Goal?
A single medal will suffice. A tangible medal that we can easily envision. A specific medal, namely the one he got from Hero’s Duty. A medal that we can imagine him obtaining, bringing to the Nicelanders, and using to change his lot in life.
It’s easy to cheer on because it means Ralph doesn’t have to live in the garbage, alone anymore. We can relate to it, and cheer it on, because nobody wants to be alone (especially not while living in garbage).
And the stakes for this are obvious: ___.
Now how about what Ralph wants?
This medal is connected to Ralph’s ghost which is years and years of being the bad guy. The bad, unlikable, unloved, unworthy, friendless guy.
He thinks if he gets it, he’ll become the good guy at long last, and his loneliness and lack of self-worth will end.
How is this his saving grace? It immediately makes the audience empathize with Ralph. Everyone, at some point, has felt alone and unloved.
What about what he Needs?
Getting the medal doesn’t work out for Ralph. It doesn’t fix anything. What he NEEDS is this medal:
To become a hero, he needs to be the hero for Vanellope.
“As long as that little kid likes me … “
So these three are the destination. These are what everything is going towards. If you know these three elements, you’ll have a much better chance of an ending forming in your head. So take that annoying little liar voice.
You know what that voice looks like? Her. It looks like Umbridge.
“We all have one thing in common - we want to be loved for who we are. We need to celebrate our differences. For instance, I’m gay. I’m not bragging about it but I’ve always been afraid to say it and I’m not anymore. I want this place to be a safe space where everyone feels free to be themselves. Welcome to Degrassi.”
Since this blog reminds me of yeeem, I wonder how it would go if a Space Pirate met a Sangheili. Probably just worting and screeching and then a protracted war that ends in the Covenant collapsing again
“You see, back then, you were just this fantasy. You were this little girl who when I would see, you would either ignore me or make an obscene gesture and keep on walking … But now look at you, you fight for sea otters, you’ve befriended Taylor Townsend, you’re an incredible mom to that bunny. You’ve evolved. And over the last nine hundred and fifty days we’ve been dating - yes, I’ve counted and yes, I counted the Zach era because really, who were we kidding? - I’ve watched you grow into this incredible woman. And that is who I love.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?” “I don’t know what the signals are like in your culture, but in mine, when you spend an evening helping someone take apart vibrators to smuggle into a foreign country, it’s a pretty good indication that it’s okay to get personal.”
tbh i don’t want peraltiago proposal to happen in halloveen or in the 99th episode. u know why?? bc these seem like ensemble episodes and i want proposal to happen when jake and amy have their own separate storyline
ozzie and eddie start out the episode by just having a freaking shouting match, complaining about how much they hate each other and how they wish the other one was dead probably. maybe we get an accidental admittance of like “i never wanted you to die but youve hurt me too much now and its unforgivable” bc you gotta love those spur of the moment ‘didnt mean to say that’ moments.
so eventually after a whole bunch of shouting and pouting they finally decide to tolerate each other at the very least, since it seems like theyre in this for the long haul. they finally come to the decision that they cant get out on their own and grudgingly agree to work together to escape
eddie decides to do what he does best: be annoying. he gets the attention of the guards somehow, leading to figure A of him laughing here:
seems like hes hammin it up again, bein all dramatic as he’s so wont to do.
im thinking, maybe he and ozzie are faking my wonderful penguins death? i mean, the guards can probably find out pretty easily that they want to freaking murder each other; it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them to believe that eddie somehow killed oz when theyre 3 feet apart.
and that leads to figure B:
one mr oswald cobblepot laying on the ground looking schemey or… something.
theory: ed pretends to kill oswald, gets the guards attention through being his awful over the top wonderful riddler self, and somehow manipulates them into opening the cage to check on ozzie - at which point our favorite bird probably rips their throat out or something.
so at this point ozzie’s free but you know who’s not? eddie boy of course. which means oz has to agree to let him out of his cage (and hes been doin just fine), because theyre definitely both out and about together later in the episode. so ed probably has to convince oz to open the door please. maybe he finally starts being nice to him again and promises not to try to kill him anymore. maybe theres a temporary cease fire, so they can both get out alive then kill each other on their own terms.
anyway, ozzie lets ed out and they go on a lowkey super sneaky rampage around the court of owls compound, killing whoever they find on the way (which will of course be tons of fun for the whole family). this might be where figure C comes in, but also who really knows:
then they probably get discovered and surrounded at this point, leading to….
theyre obviously angry here, and definitely shouting at someone. whom, you might ask? no clue. my prediction is that the court finally realizes these two idiots are loose and they end up getting surrounded, leading to ozzie ranting to the entirety of the court of owls in great detail about just how hes going to make them pay. theyre probably in some amount of trouble, considering mister green flamingo man even looks pretty somber. ((note: where even is this. are they even on court territory anymore))
so how do they get out of this?? enter deus ex machina: fish mooney.
ok ok thats unlikely (but it’s my one wish that the queen returns to save both of their sorry behinds). either way, someone else probably shows up to save them (maybe ivy, maybe ozzies whole mini army, maybe jimbo and co. who knows.
anyway, they most likely escape somehow and so begins the plot of literally every single character in gotham vs the court of owls.
also anyway, im probably completely wrong! but this is my best guess as of right now so i guess we’ll see next monday 🐧❔
“It’s not weird if I invite Harry is it?” You question as you’re looking up the movie times for tonight. The Forest was officially out and you and your friends - Trisha and Kev - were in need of a horror movie kinda night. Ever since they reminded you of going to see the movie this Friday evening, you were thinking of how to get Harry to come along.
this will be so long and it keeps getting longer!! so I hope you’re ready. I’ve read all of these, so ask me if you have any questions about them! If you’re looking for more masterposts, try @wlwbooksource
Genre Fic w Major WLW Couples
The Abyss Surrounds Us Duology by Emily Skrutskie: lesbian pirate x lesbian sea monster trainer in the future. Literally. One of my proudest achievements is giving this book hype. The author draws fanart of Swift and Cas kissing and posts it to her tumblr (again, not kidding, there’s some on my blog). Main character is asian. otp: equal footing
The Scorpion Rules Duology by Erin Bow: literally one of my fave books of all time, amazingly complex villain, super strong bi girl protag and her adorable bi gf, you will be genuinely confused which side is good and which side is bad, the three main characters are So Good, tw for an unhappy ending to this one but it’s… not any of the tropes. also a semi-hopeful end in the sequel which was?? good??
Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore!!! oh my god I love this book. it’s got a bi girl as the protagonist and it’s super atmospheric and interesting and references all these classics but is also modern and her romance plot is genuinely Iconic
In Ageless Sleep by Arden Ellis: if you want a sci-fi novella with some hella good romance. especially for being approximately 50 pages.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire!! if you want a wlw novella that talks about gender roles and is the sequel to A FUCKING HUGO AWARD WINNER. this series is super diverse in so many ways.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston: wow can’t believe E.K. Johnston invented writing stories driven by women?? it’s about polyamory in a scifi futuristic victorian Canada. and yes, it is exactly as amazing as it sounds.
Dreadnought Duology by April Daniels: okay it’s about a trans girl who becomes a superhero and dates another superhero girl and yes it IS amazing.
Otherbound: f/f romance with a bi girl as main character. There’s literally not a single white character. It’s about body swapping and fantasy! talks frankly about the issues in the main relationship, suspenseful. Sense8 in a way.
Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo: occur in the same world, although you don’t have to read both. Ash is lesbian cinderella. Huntress focuses more on character development and is my personal favorite, but tw for a bittersweet ending. Malinda Lo also wrote the Adaptation series, featuring a bisexual protag and her alien gf, but that one wasn’t my favorite. I know a lot of people who love it though!
The Dark Wife by Sara Diemer: girl Persephone / Hades. My gay classics student ass unabashedly loved this. I think you can get it free on the author'a blog? Attempted rape tw (not between the main couple, their relationship was entirely consensual)
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda: Another Hugo Award winner but this time a graphic novel!! it’s complicated but it’s super worth it and all the mcs are morally ambiguous woc
Contemporary w Major WLW Couples
A & B by J.C. Lillis!! y'all have GOT to read this. it’s seriously the most delightful enemies-to-lovers filled-with-banter novel and maybe my fav romance book ever?? it’s fucking HILARIOUS.
Love Letters To The Dead: the wlw “side-romance” is honestly given just as much screentime as (if not more than) the main romance. literally one of my all-time favorite romances in anything ever, I read this book in my questioning phase and it changed my life
This Is Where It Ends: lesbians at a school shooting, primarily non-white characters, you will cry (spoilers: they both live and stay together)
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: 1960s civil rights era lesbians, ends happily. It emphasizes all of the problematic tropes often used in “overcoming racism” stories and why they’re not okay. This was recced to me by a black person so I trust that assessment. I also really love her other books, which have a lot of wlw as well.
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me: Basically: Girl #1 finds out her dead girlfriend was cheating on her with Girl #2. Girl #1 and Girl #2 fall in love. This book is so adorable. The author has several thousand other wlw books so knock yourselves out.
Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan: a cheesefest with racial diversity. I love this book so much (it’s so good and PURE) even though it’s not hugely deep.
You Know Me Well by David Levithan + Nina Lacour: The authors alone should be enough to make you want to read this. I still am lowkey bitter the two boys didn’t end up together, but they stay friends and all so it’s fine. Found family!
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld: Storyline between two girl authors in New York, ends happily!! also the protagonist was confirmed acearo spec on Twitter which is pretty obvious if you read the book. I’ve heard his other series Zeroes has lesbians too
Everything Leads To You by Nina Lacour: moviemaker wlw! cheesy as all hell, but adorable and really deep. very much recommended if you’re into moviemaking or acting
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: I think everyone has read this already but it’s Pure and about fandom
Get It Together Delilah / the Flywheel by Erin Gough: read this if you want cute cheesy girls falling in love at a coffee shop!!
for some of my fav shorts!! the story How from Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women is one of my fav wlw short stories ever. Also try out Alyssa Wong’s Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, it’s free from tor and really fucking great!! and Nic Stone’s Happy Beginning from the Welcome Home anthology is a beautiful cinnamon roll of a story that I’ll never get over and I’d die for her
Some That Aren’t Love Stories Quite As Much:
Far From You by Tess Sharpe: crime thriller with bi / recovering drug addict main character and major f/f romance. Not a happy ending for the couple bc the romance is in the past, but happy ending for the protagonist. This is one of my all time fave books not even lying
Exit Pursued By A Bear by EK Johnston: About the main character’s rape and her subsequent abortion. Main character does not have a romance plot, but her best friend (the second most important character) is a lesbian and falls in love with another friend. This one doesn’t belong quite as much, but it’s one of my all time favorite books ever and it’s all about female friendship / love and it’s?? pure?? (ALSO READ HER OTHER BOOK A THOUSAND NIGHTS ID DIE FOR EK JOHNSTON)
Cherry: About female friendships and relationships with sex, really feminist. There are four girls, one realizes she’s gay, and her friends are just so pure and supportive about it???? there’s a bit of romance but I still feel like it’s more about the friendships between the girls.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: f/f romance, one lesbian one bi girl and one trans girl. Hilarious social commentary, very feminist, lots of woc. Libba Bray also has another hist fiction series that I’ve heard is gay (the first book is called A Great And Terrible Beauty) but I don’t know much about it.
Kissing The Witch: Sometimes-gay versions of fairytales, really really interesting and pure and GREAT.
Tricks and sequel Traffick by Ellen Hopkins: about kids forced into prositution, so all the tws. among main characters, there’s a gay guy and a bi girl! Ignore the back that says “four straight one gay” because it’s a lie and publishers need to shut up. The bi girl is just?? such an amazing character and I love her with all my heart.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan: realistic fiction about what wlw in Iran have to go through. tw for a not-great end for the couple, but there’s no death and the main character is happy. It’s more about the self-acceptance of the main character than about the romance.
Ask The Passengers by A.S. King: magical realism kind of? more about coming out than about romance. Happy ending.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth: again, more about coming out, but wow this book is amazing. Happy ending for the girl, not for the couple.
Fucked-Up Female Friendships Aesthetic
Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by: This book is so freaky and messed up and I’m still not exactly sure how it ended, but it still blew me away. The Mr and Mrs Smith wlw au you never knew you wanted, although I’m not going to spoil how. Fucked up ending but still happyish?
Dare Me by Megan Abbot: This book is creepy as fuck and revolves around the relationship between two girls which is… really gay, like canonically gay. I liked this a lot, but be warned that it’s not a romance. Happy ending mostly?
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas: This one had a lot of wasted potential in the form of a well-built story about the craziness of rich kids partying, but it is a very good murder mystery focused around two girls.