Fiction Writing Exercises: Change the Tail

Fiction writing exercises: change the tail

Change the tail on these fiction writing exercises.

Fiction writing exercises improve your writing by challenging you, providing you with fresh ideas, and forcing you to approach fiction writing from new angles.

This is a flexible writing exercise that could also be called Change the Tale. But in this exercise, we’re going to change the tale by changing the tail.

The idea is to take an existing plot and change the ending to make it completely different. This will help you understand the basics of story structure, particularly the part where you bring the story to a close.

Take the tail end off a story, right after the climax, and change it to something else. Choose a story from a book, magazine, newspaper, or film, and change the ending!

Changing the Tails on Tales

Here are a few idea starters:

Gone with the Wind – What if Rhett Butler hadn’t walked away?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Without the lobotomy?

Titanic (movie) – What if the opposite characters had lived and died?

Try this with any of the Star Wars movies (I dare you!), or a Shakespeare play. Try it with a Dr. Seuss book or try it with War and Peace. Dip into nonfiction and try it with world history. What would life be like if World War II had gone the other way? What if a different candidate had won a major election?

Or just try it with the last book you read.


  • You can flesh out a completely new ending for the story you chose by writing a polished piece or you can simply jot down some notes or an outline that explain how your new ending will differ from the original.
  • Write a few sentences about how your new ending might affect the integrity of the piece or how a different ending might have changed the world. Would Romeo and Juliet be the classic that it is today if the two star-crossed lovers had lived? How would that have changed our culture, the literary canon, or the way the most compelling and moving stories throughout history have been viewed and received?
  • Turn this exercise on its head and change the opening of the story. Make the hero and villain switch places. Tell the story from a different character’s point of view.

Which story ending will you change? You can pick one that you didn’t like much and fix it by giving it a better ending or choose a story with an ending you loved — just to see what a different outcome would have been like.

Fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun and challenging, so tackle this with a light heart and a focused mind. And keep writing!

If you have any fiction writing exercises to share, feel free to post them in the comments.

101 creative writing exercises

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


13 Responses to “Fiction Writing Exercises: Change the Tail”

  1. --Deb says:

    Ooh, such a delectable thought–to take something whose ending is just, so wrong and to FIX it. So many possibilities to choose from!

  2. Amy - Write From Home says:

    I often rewrite the endings of tv series. It’s fun and satisfying.

  3. @Deb, Have anything in particular in mind?

    @Amy, TV series? Which ones? Right now I’m really into “Without a Trace.”

  4. Amy Derby says:

    @Melissa – most recently, Gilmore Girls. I don’t watch much tv anymore, and I don’t have cable. I do have a major netflix addiction, so I can see all the old shows without having to commit to the new ones. I’m not into reality tv, which seems to be most all that’s on the network anymore. I did recently rent the first two seasons of Weeds, and while waiting on the next season to be released I’ve already written what’s going to happen in my head. (Yes, I’m very strange.)

  5. Bob Younce says:

    Wonderfully entertaining exercise, Melissa.

    When I was taking graduate classes in History, I often felt like some of the professors were doing this exact thing. We called it “speculative history.” For example, what if the South had won the Civil War, or what if Lincoln hadn’t been shot? Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like that was the best context for the exercise, but I do enjoy doing it myself.

    For example, would Caddyshack II have sucked so bad if Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield had come back? I mean, Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd, obviously, weren’t enough to hold it together on their own…

    Great post!

  6. @Amy, I’ve always heard Gilmore Girls is a good show, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it! I’m not a big fan of reality TV either, although there are a couple of reality shows that I watch every now and then… mostly talent shows with singing and dancing, and for the record, I’m pretty strange myself 😉

    @Bob, I just think it’s a fun little exercise, one you can do in your head. I always wonder what a sequel to the Breakfast Club would have been like, since that’s my favorite 80s movie. Never did see Caddyshack, but I love the theme song “I”m Alright.”

  7. Amy - Write From Home says:

    Gilmore Girls was good until the writer/creator of the show got into a spat with the network and walked out. The last season was horrible and ended with a show that was shot to work as either a season finale or a series finale; the actors were still in negotiation over doing another season. It was one of the only shows I watched during those years, and I was highly disappointed in the way it ended (as were some of the supporting actors, from what I’ve read). From the first season, the creator of the show had planned out the finale episode (how the series would end) down to the last four words of the show. Now no one knows how she’d have ended it. It irked me (still does — can ya tell?), so I rewrote it. Told you I’m strange. 🙂

  8. @Amy, I think that’s pretty cool. Strange, yes, but cool 😉 We writers are an odd bunch, eh?

  9. Marc says:

    I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Anakin Skywalker hadn’t stopped Mace Windu from killing Palpatine 🙂

  10. Marcy McKay says:

    What a fun, creative idea, Melissa. My immediate thought was Dr. Seuss. WHAT IF the Grinch never returned all the toys to Whoville? What would happen then? I’m going to play with this some more. Thanks!


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