Smack Dab in the Classroom: Story Endings, or Did Charlotte Really Have to Die? By Dia Calhoun

Having just finished the manuscript of a middle grade novel--one I've been working on for over three years--story endings are on my mind. Any good writer hopes that the ending of her story is inevitable. That given the choices her characters make, no other ending works as well.

On school visits, kids sometimes ask why one of my novels end one way instead of another. I tell them to go ahead and imagine a different ending, but they have to explain why it is the “right” ending for the story.

This would be a fun writing exercise to offer your students.

Have them choose a book and write a new ending. Ask them to justify why they think their ending is better for the characters. Why it makes a more satisfying conclusion to the plot—and not just because it’s a happier or more ideal ending.

As students think through this problem, they will learn about the design and integrity of a story, and learn that endings are not arbitrary but must be true to the situation laid out earlier.

Who knows, maybe they will come up with something wonderful. Maybe Charlotte the spider didn't really have to die.


  1. What a FABULOUS idea for kids. I love the idea of inevitable endings. Katherine Paterson had something great to say about that that I've always remembered. (can't find the quote!) Something along the lines of "she may not like the ending, but understands the inevitability of it." Now I'm on a crusade to find the quote. Thanks so much for this post.

  2. That last line got my brain spinning...

  3. Love imagining what would happen if Charlotte hadn't died!


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