The Great Ending Hoax: Did J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins Write the Same Last Scene?

TKO-endingYou better sit down for this one: Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games all have the same ending!  No joke, the ending scenes are mind-blowingly similar.

Each ending consists of four simple elements: The Hero (1) gets knocked out by the villain, (2) wakes up safe in a hospital bed, (3) asks what happened, and (4) receives a cover story from a mentor or friend.

Here are 4 tips on how to frame your unique story using the same winning plot devices.

1.  TKO: Total Knock-Out

Harry Potter falls into unconsciousness after his battle with Voldemort and Quirrell:  “He felt Quirrell’s arm wrenched from his grasp, knew all was lost, and fell into blackness, down . . . down . . . down . . .” (HP Ch.17).

During Twilight’s grand finale, Bella also falls unconscious after fighting a losing battle against the evil vampire:  “I felt my consciousness slipping as the pain subsided.  I was afraid to fall into the black waters again . . . ‘Sleep now, Bella’ were the last words I heard.” (TW Ch.23).

In the Hunger Games, Katniss is knocked out just after the major battle:  “I start hurling myself against the glass, shrieking and I think I just catch a glimpse of pink hair — it must be Effie, it has to be Effie, coming to my rescue — when the needle jabs me from behind.”  (HG Ch.26).

2.  Wake-up to the hospital light

Harry Potter wakes up in a hospital bed: “Something gold was glinting just above him.” . . .  “He realized he must be in the hospital wing.  He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets . . .” (HP Ch. 17).

In Twilight, Bella also sees the light: “My eyes opened to a bright, white light. . . . I was propped up on a hard, uneven bed — a bed with rails.  The pillows were flat and lumpy.  There was an annoying beeping sound somewhere close by.” (TW Ch.24).

In The Hunger Games, Katniss wakes up in a hospital-like room: “When I wake, I’m afraid to move at first.  The entire ceiling glows with a soft yellow light allowing me to see that I’m in a room containing just my bed. . . . The air smells of something sharp and antiseptic.  My right arm has several tubes that extend into the wall behind me.” (HG Ch.26).

3.  “What happened?”  “I was almost too late . . .”

Harry asks: “How long have I been in here?”  Dumbledore explains that he arrived just in time to prevent Quirrell from taking the Sorcerer’s stone: “I feared I might be too late.”  (HP Ch. 17).

Bella asks: “‘What happened?’ I couldn’t remember clearly, and my mind rebelled against me as I tried to recall.”  Edward explains: “‘I was almost too late.  I could have been too late,’ he whispered, his voice tormented.” (TW Ch.24).

Katniss asks: “‘Where’s Portia?  Is she with Peeta?  He is all right, isn’t he?  I mean, he’s alive?'”

4.  By the way, it’s a secret.  Cue the cover story.

Dumbledore tells Harry: “What happened down in the dungeons between you and Profesor Quirrell is a complete secret, so naturally, the whole school knows.”

Edward tells Bella: “‘You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window.’  He paused.  ‘You have to admit, it could happen.'”

Haymitch tells Katniss: “Listen up. . . . . Your only defense can be you were so madly in love you weren’t responsible for your actions. . . . Got it sweetheart?” (HG Ch.26).

Here’s why it works:

  • The Hero fights up to the point of death, or so we think.  This gives us the suspense we crave, and it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t actually die because we still see his bravery and willingness to sacrifice. Check out this Writer’s Digest article on writing a killer ending, which explains why a showing of heroism is effective.
  • The rescue by another party leaves the Hero innocent— he doesn’t actually have to kill anyone.  The young reader does not have to grapple with the morality of rooting for a killer.  (Though Katniss does participate in killings earlier, it is part of the “Game” she is forced into so the decision seems more black-and-white.)
  • The explanation and cover story show the bond that has grown between the Hero and his friend — this is satisfying because that’s what was missing from the Hero’s life in the beginning of the story.
  • Finally, EXPLAINING instead of SHOWING the less action-filled scene saves precious space on the page, making the ending less tedious to get through.  Remember, the “Homeward Bound” or journey home section of the novel is very short.  Gotta leave ’em wanting more.

Though all three novels use the same devices here, the structural similarities do not affect the originality of the individual stories.  If you are in the mood for some more “spoiler alerts,” check out this Publisher’s Weekly article on the 10 Best Book Endings.

I will put this index card in the master outline as a transition between the last major battle with the villain and the “homeward bound” section.


Can you think of any other major stories with this style of ending?  How about the film Stranger than Fiction?
P.S.  Welcome to all the new readers who found my corner of the internet through my brother’s site, No Meat Athlete.  Thanks for checking out the Better Novel Project– I hope you stick around!

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  1. says

    > The rescue by another party leaves the Hero innocent

    I think you’re exactly right about this. It is a way of leaving the Hero innocent, both for the Hero’s benefit and so the reader doesn’t have to confront liking a killer, etc.

    And that’s exactly what bugs me.

    It feels like a cop-out. It feels like a way for the writer to dodge the genuinely difficult moral and/or plotting issues involved with making the Hero actually *do the hero’s job* of defeating the villain.

    Sometimes it’s fine, sure. Philosopher’s Stone is book 1 in a long series, and Harry’s only 11. He has a lot of growth and adventures left to go through, so I can totally buy into not making an 11 year old kill his teacher. There are always situational reasons why such things work.

    As a general trope, though? As a strategy writers might reflexively reach for rather than confronting the hard stuff? Bleah.

    I mean, sure fiction offers us a version of reality that can be grittier and yet also more idealized than real life. But real life is *messy*. Real life *does* contain hard choices, moral ambiguities, and more shades of grey than E.L. James could possibly imagine. TKO’ing the hero so somebody else can resolve the story’s central conflict off-screen just feels like taking the easy way out.

    • says

      Hi Jason!

      Thanks for your great comment.

      I like the way you are thinking about this! The goal of the project is to deconstruct bestselling novels to learn about structure. I think that information is so much more valuable if writers do just what you did here– analyze the “why it works ” and decide if the reasoning really does work for their own story.

      I think you make a great point about these books being part of a series– maybe we accept the “easy way out” for this first book since we know bigger battles are on the way.

      Thanks again,

      Christine :)

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