Writing story endings is hard, but in this post, I’m sharing some of the things that I do and giving a few extra tips that I hope will help you.
I usually start writing a book knowing exactly how it’s going to end, but often through the course of the writing something changes. The character takes me in unexpected directions or when I get to the end I realize it wasn’t so great after all.
And it’s perfectly okay to allow your character and your story to change direction.
We spend so much time rewriting the beginning of a story because that’s the part we’re told is going to impress the teacher or attract the publisher’s/reader’s attention.
But readers still need to be happy with how we end out story.
And often it’s not till I’m seriously into many drafts of a novel that I realize that that the ending is not really working.
SOME REASONS WHY ENDINGS DON’T WORK
- The story finishes too quickly
- It’s not a logical ending
- We don’t know what’s happened to some of the characters
- The ending isn’t believable
- The ending is too boring – it doesn’t have action or tension
- The ending is all telling and no showing – this is where the main character tells us what happens and we don’t actually see it happening to them
- The ending is too vague so the reader can’t really work out what’s going on.
- The writer has put in a twist that doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. The twist might be too sudden and unexpected.
- The ending is too complicated so the reader can’t work out what’s going on or how the story got to this point.
The problem with me is that I’m one of those people who puts the foot on the accelerator when I can see the finish line/the end of the road in sight. And this truly doesn’t work with a novel or a long story.
You have to tie up all the sub plots and story questions, take your time to show the outcomes for the main character.
Your ending shouldn’t be just a summary by the main character to tell the reader everything will be okay. It still has to have action and tension.
Try going to the end of your story and treating it like it’s the beginning. Work on it until you are sure it will keep the reader happy with the ending, but wanting more.
TIPS FOR STRONG STORY ENDINGS
- Keep it simple.
- Make the outcome for the main character clear. If you have plotted and planned your story and know exactly what’s going to happen in the end, then it will be clear for the reader too.
- Make the ending believable but interesting. It still has to have action.
- To make your ending unpredictable, add a twist, something that the reader won’t see coming at first, but when they think about it they will realise that there were clues throughout the story. A twist has to fit with the rest of the story and if you give hints in the rest of the story, the reader will find the twist believable but surprising.
- Don’t make the ending too sudden. Build up to it. Allow it to unfold for the reader.
- Look at how one of your favourite writers has ended their book/s or story/s. What do you like about the ending? Has the writer used techniques that you could use in your own story? Looking at how other authors work is a great way to learn what you like, and what will work for you.
- Tie up all the loose ends. Don’t leave the reader wondering what happened to the main character. You don’t have to state exactly what happened, but you have to give the reader enough information to work it out for themselves.
- Have you kept the story going long after it should have ended? Try cutting the last line or paragraph. Does this improve your story?
- If you change the order of the paragraphs on the last page, will this make your story stronger?
- Have you thought about what your story is really about? (The theme). Have you linked your story ending to the theme?
- Are your main character’s actions believable and interesting – even at the end?
- Have you surprised the reader? Have you done this in a believable way? (Don’t add an inappropriate twist at the end, just for shock value.)
- Have you left your reader wanting to read more about this character or more of your work?
Plot or plan your ending out, just as you would the whole story. Here’s a post on how I work out what’s going to happen in my story. http://wp.me/ppiTq-rI
Your story is finished when you and other readers feel satisfaction after reading the last word (and not just because you’ve finished writing it). There has to be satisfaction with the outcome for the main character, and a feeling that the story has reached a strong but believable conclusion.
In many ways, the ending is just like the beginning of your story. You still want readers to keep reading. You want them to read your next story/book.
Lisa, I hope this has answered your questions. If you have any other questions feel free to write them in the comments section of this post. Other writers are also welcome to post your questions about story endings here.