A lot of writing advice focuses on how the story begins. The first line, the first paragraph, the first chapter – these are all important to grab your reader and get them to keep reading. And whilst this is vital part of your story, you shouldn’t overlook the ending. This after all, is the last part of your book,= your reader will consume. Get it right and it will stay with them forever. Get it wrong and you’ll probably negate all the good work that came before. So it’s worth giving it some thought.
What makes a good ending
People like stories because they have a conclusion, unlike life which just goes on and on and on and – you get the idea. But that doesn’t mean you need to go for a “happy-ever-after” ending all the time. The most important part of a good ending is giving your characters satisfying resolutions. They’re who your reader has been following through your world, so they need decent conclusions.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go for a full “happy-ever-after” ending. For some book genres, like romance, it may be expected. However, you still want your ending to feel coherent to the story and true to your characters, so if that means some things are less happy, so be it.
It doesn’t have to be perfect and it can be as open as you need it to be – don’t feel like every loose end has to be tied up. A tale that lingers long after the book has been closed.
What makes a bad ending
Perhaps it should go without saying but avoid at all costs the “it was all a dream” ending. I have used it myself – but in my defense, I was seven. Leading on from that, it’s best to steer clear of any kind of cliche ending.
You should also be careful of twist endings. Sometimes these can work well but they may constrict repeat readings. And if you do have one, make sure you’ve built up a believable trail of breadcrumbs in your story so the twist isn’t entirely out of the blue. If you decide a character was bad or good all along with no hint of it beforehand, your readers will be, well, miffed.
How to write your ending
Some people write the ending before they write the middle of their story. I guess this is a little like fashioning the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, so they have something to aim their story towards. And it might work for you too, although I personally feel like this would seriously constrain my work – and I say this as someone who plans before I start writing. I plan the ending of my stories but like the rest of my plan, I know things are going to go astray at some point (or several points) despite my best intentions, and that goes for my endings too.
Whether you do a story plan or not, it’s ok to start writing without a solid ending in play. No, really it is. For my first book “Under This Skin” I had a vague idea of an ending but it wasn’t clear. Nevertheless, I started writing. And when I got to the end of my book after everything my main character had been through, the ending kind of wrote itself. It was the best ending there could be for the character and I arrived at it naturally.
What do you think? How do you write your endings? Please share in the comments.