Contrary to common opinion, the world doesn’t end with a whimper. It doesn’t even end with a bang, despite the fondest fantasies of both the fireworks manufacturers and adult film industry (in a truly spectacular example of converging alternate realities).
Instead, it’s the letdown without the cliffhanger, the punchline before the joke that never comes. The world ends with a question.
The jury is still out on what the question may be. The fact that this is a continuing debate is proof that we haven’t yet found the winner. But we have seen some strong emerging contenders. Each year I believe it more likely we may identify a winner within (or rather, concluding) my lifetime1.
The ever-popular: “What does this button do?” is a bit of a Cold War-era cliche. Its grown-up counterparts: “How can we disrupt the market?” and “Is there an app for that?”
“What the Hell?” is always a popular contender, with the advantage of being both concise and not specific to any particular era or socioeconomic bracket.
Other classics2 include:
When will we return to normal?
Why didn’t you say something?
Why didn’t we know?
Why didn’t we listen?
Did it have to be this way?
What have we done?
I’ve been told these are too many questions, and readers want a Call to Action. Rather than question such advice, I humbly deliver the following.
Today, ask yourself: Can it end differently? What can I do to make sure it does?
1 You think I’m kidding? Believe me, I don’t want it to be this way. It’s no fun to talk about. Writers need dramatic conclusions in order to thrive. Barring those, we at least need a (read: any) conclusion. A question isn’t a conclusion. A question is frequently viewed as a sign you haven’t researched enough. Every piece of writing advice on this planet exhorts writers to end with a “Call to Action,” whatever that is, whatever the action may be, responsibility be damned.
2 Other classics, not included, include: “You wanna play a game?” and “Why so serious?”