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Human beings thrive on stories. From ancient oral storytelling to modern cinema, we have loved a good story.
Through centuries of storytelling through books and movies, it is learned that there are four basic ways of ending a story: Sweet, Bitter, Semi-sweet and Bittersweet.
To understand how a story works, one has to learn that there are two kinds of desires(or wants) for the protagonist: An external desire that is known to them, and an internal desire is the need that is usually universal in nature, and more in sync with what the audience wants.
The four different endings(Sweet, Bitter, Semi-sweet and Bittersweet) is the combining and mixing of the external and internal desires.
This extra sugar-coated ending is when the hero gets what was always wanted, in all aspects.
Example: In the movie Back To The Future, the time travelling Marty wants to be a rock star but lacks the confidence to realize his dream. In the end all his wildest dreams are realized, plus he is able to bring his parents together and get back to the present time from the past.
This ending is when the hero does not get what they want, and also not what they need. This ending can seem poignant and unfair to the audience.
Example: The movie The Godfather does not end in the way the father, or the son intended to, and neither how the audience envisioned. It ends in a tragic, bitter way, out of nowhere.
A common way to end the story, the semi-sweet ending has the protagonist get what they need, but not what they wanted from the start.
There are many movies that have the semi-sweet ending, as it provides a canvas for the character to develop and even transform(like in the movie Rainman).
In a bittersweet ending, the protagonist often gets what they want, but not what they had really needed. It looks as if the hero has won, but it does not seem worthy.
For example, in the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg succeeds in building a social website used by millions, but isn’t really happy in the end.
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