And then they lived happily ever after…but then…




Well hello there, Reader!

Did you go to a BBQ this past weekend? Maybe a movie or even a convention?

I went to a wedding!

My youngest cousin’s in fact. She looked like a fairytale princess, her white dress billowing out behind her in the pre-summer breeze.

And it got me thinking, this is how most stories end. With family and friends. With a big party and a delicious feast. With dancing and dresses. With cake and toasts to love and life. With memories captured forever.

With a happily ever after.

The slaying of dragons. The defeating of evil wizards. The takedown of corrupt governments…

And of course, the wedding of two characters destined to be together.

It’s usually the end of the story, but what if it was the beginning?

And I’m not talking about stories where 95% of the plot is told in tragic retrospective like Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby.

I’m talking about stories where the happily ever after is the first 1-5% of the plot and the actual story is everything that comes next.

You might be thinking, that it can’t be done. But the story I’m reading right now is one such story. And it’s not the only one.

So let’s talk about 5 stories that start with the standard end goal of a traditional plot and then go somewhere entirely different from there:

1) So This is Ever After

So This is Ever After is about what comes after you behead the evil ruler and liberate the kingdom only to learn the princess in the tower is long dead. The real story centers around newly minted king (and beheader) Arek trying to discover his soulmate to save his own life.

2) Once Upon a Time

In the TV show Once Upon a Time, the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming is interrupted by Evil Queen Regina in the opening minutes of the show. Then in a swirl of dark magic, everyone is transported to the seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine after having their memories stolen.

The series then continues for 7 seasons in a twisting plot that jumps back and forth between the two realms while exploring what comes after happily ever after.

It’s an epic feat of storytelling because each character has both a fairytale self and real-world self whose character arc needs to be resolved by the end. It’s well worth a watch.

3) Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

The most recent Dungeons & Dragons movie starts with a jailbreak (that turns out to be unnecessary) only for the two characters to learn they were betrayed by their former party members. The plot then turns into a surprisingly heartwarming found family heist complete with damsel rescuing, hilarious hijinks, and even a chonky dragon.

4) Heaven Official’s Blessing

Heaven Official’s Blessing starts with Xie Lian—the former crown prince of the Kingdom of Xianle—ascending to the heavens as a deity for the third time. And when I say “ascending” I mean literally crash landing in the middle of his fellow deities and sorta wrecking the place.

They don’t really spend time going into how or why he became a deity (this time). Possibly because the main problem he’s gotta solve is how to pay back all the damage he’s just caused.

5) Frieren: Beyond Journey's End

In Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (yep it literally tells you it’s after the standard HEA of a story) the heroes of Himmel’s party are returning to the capital after their 10-year quest to kill the Demon King. There’s a capital-wide celebration in their honor complete with feasting, drinking, merriment, and even a once-in-a-half-century meteor shower.

The 13-volume manga chronicles what happens 70 years after that night. When Frieren the elven mage embarks on a journey to reach the resting place of souls in order to reunite with her former comrade Himmel who died 20 years earlier. And in each volume (or episode of the anime) we’re treated to how the past and present seem to collide in unexpected ways as she discovers what it is to be human.

So there you have it, Reader, 5 different creators’ takes on how to start a story from the point we’d traditionally consider the end.

Now maybe the next time you’re struggling with how to start your story you might consider reaching for a classic fairytale’s Happily Ever After for a bit of inspiration.

Until next time, Reader, this is your friendly neighborhood storytelling Kat wishing you a wonderfully creative week.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil


PS 👉 Do you have a favorite story that starts with the end you’d like to suggest for my list? Hit reply and let me know.

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Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

I help writers like you slay their doubt demons and get their novels and memoirs reader-ready.

Julie Artz works with both award-winning and newer authors across the publishing spectrum from Big Five to small and university presses to indie and hybrid. She is an Author Accelerator-certified Founding Book Coach, a sought-after speaker and writing instructor, and a regular contributor to Jane Friedman and Writers Helping Writers, and a regular instructor for AuthorsPublish, IWWG, ProWritingAid and more. Her work as a Pitch Wars and Teen Pit mentor, a former SCBWI Regional Advisor (WWA), and her memberships in The EFA, the WFWA, AWP, and the Authors Guild keep her industry knowledge sharp. A consummate social and environmental justice minded story geek, Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers (when they’re not off at university!), and two naughty furry familiars. She’s built a thriving book coaching business based on her values, her editing chops, and her knowledge of story. Check out her weekly newsletter, Wyrd Words Weekly, and subscribe today.

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I’m Kat! Professional Storyteller & Neurodivergent Creative

Here to help you vanquish those story construction obstacles, slay that imposter syndrome clawing at the back of your brain & stomp boredom flat with heart-pounding Boys Love fiction. Join the Saga and choose your inbox obsession, whether it’s helpful advice to get your writing unstuck or an episode of my weekly Boys Love Fantasy series to devour during your coffee break.

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