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Julie Plec
May 06, 2015 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Ahead of not one but two sure-to-be heartbreaking season finales, The Vampire Diaries and Originals boss Julie Plec broke down her keys to crafting the perfect season-ender in an in-depth interview. Below, she narrows down the process to five easy steps.  

Step One: May of previous season—decide how you want next season to end. If you haven’t figured it out before you start shooting in July, you are likely very screwed. It’s cliché, but weddings, graduations, Founders Days, vampire cures and major character exits make for an easy “big idea” to build a finale around.

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Step Two: Take a very brief vacation during which you hope that five minutes of rest and relaxation don’t give you the clarity to realize all your big plans for next season suck.

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Step Three: Don’t stall. Never stall. If you can’t make your pitch hold out until the finale, use it early or ditch it. Also, be flexible. The perfect idea you had may need some tweaking before you get there.

Step Four: Survive episodes 12-17. Your first chapter is complete, but you’re not close enough to start building to the finale. You’re gonna need another “big idea” to get you through the middle. Exhibit A, Vampire Diaries fans: the Tomb Vampires from Season 1, the Winnebago Werewolves from Season 2, the undaggering of the Original Family in Season 3, etc.

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Step Five: It’s finale time. Break the last act first. You already know what you want it to be. Then earn your way towards it. If you’ve built the end of the season right, the story will come together with ease. If you’ve misjudged the last few episodes, you will suffer mightily. The good news is, it will all be over in a matter of days. Until you start next season, that is.

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The season finale of The Originals airs Monday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the season finale of The Vampire Diaries on Thursday, May 14 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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