When I have an idea for a manuscript, I usually have a general idea of how the story will begin and end. The middle is muddled, of course – some scenes here or there – but I generally know how I want to end it.
But here’s the thing – most of the time that ending is altered. Maybe not the full concept, maybe not completely, but for the most part, what I originally planned will grow change, just as the story itself grew and changed. Characters evolve. Stories evolve.
This is, primarily, why I never stick to an outline. (Bravo to those who do!)
I mention this in light of last night’s How I Met Your Mother finale. A lot has been said about it already, so I’m not going to review or critique it. I didn’t enjoy the ending for a number of reasons, but that’s not important. I will say that i’ve always liked the show, and will remember it as that of a great premise with really fun, relatable (at times) characters. (In other words, I’m going to watch the reruns when they’re on, and I’ll still enjoy them.) These characters started one way, and grew and evolved as the show went on. They aged, and they felt real because of that. And though at times it felt forced (Barney, specifically), we believed in their growth because we wanted it. And I loved that about the show.
(Another show that, in my opinion, showed fantastic subtle growth for characters was Sex and the City. Charlotte and Miranda had great subtle turnarounds as the seasons progressed. I loved seeing them in the end, how far they came. Even Samantha had her moments. Unfortunately, the movies kind of killed some of that for me, but that’s neither here nor there.)
When they started filming HIMYM, the creators knew how they wanted it to end, so much to the point that they filmed the final moment (the children’s reactions to the general story of how their father met their mother). (To be fair, they had to film it early, because, hey, children age.) And therein, at least in my opinion, was the problem with the show’s finale. Their ending was set in stone, no matter how much the story grew over time. No matter how much they progressed these characters, they had to have this ending.
Now, i’m sure the creators love what they did, and fully stand behind their ending. That’s awesome, and I applaud them for that (and for NINE seasons of a really popular show). But, to me, it feels so controlled. If the show ended this way after a handful of seasons, okay, maybe I could have bought it (though, I will forever say that the closing of the first episode, when it’s revealed that Robin is NOT the mother, is such a great moment, that I hate that it goes back on itself a bit), but after so long, and so much pull and take, it just feels…sad.
Because the creators did a great job of creating these characters and making us believe in both their growth apart and together. We saw them change and turn into their last season selves. So, for instance, when it was revealed that Barney and Robin divorced in, like, a second, it felt cheap. You made us believe, and then you took it away. I wanted to continue believing in them.
I’m not saying my method of changing an ending as you go is better than anything else, (hey, I don’t have a hit TV show) but I can’t help but wonder if the creators would have gone a different way if they could have. As their characters, and they, progressed, I can’t help but wonder if they even considered it.