The End. All stories work towards those two words, whether they are physically written to mark your success at a finished draft, or simply sung aloud in your mind. But writing an ending can be a really tricky task, with a huge pressure to get it right.
If you’re writing a book and thinking about the ending, consider some of the points below.
Make Sure It’s Satisfying
A satisfying ending, let me clarify, is not necessarily a happy ending. A satisfying ending should meet readers’ expectations for the genre. For example, a thriller/mystery without a twist would fall short, as would a romance novel that doesn’t end with…well…romance! There are also many ways for an ending to be satisfying; because the main character got what they wanted, because the twist was so unexpected it took the reader’s breath away or even because it was so bittersweet or sad that it’ll stay with the reader for ever.
Tie Up Loose Ends
If you’ve had clues, mysterious side characters and sub plots, these ends need to be tied up to. No-one wants to finish a book and wonder what the purpose of certain aspects were. Don’t leave readers with too many important questions that still need to be answered. It makes for the opposite of the point above; you’ll have a very unsatisfying ending. Do note though, that not every character needs their life tied with a neat ribbon by the end. You can and should leave the reader with the sense that life will go on for these characters, even if it’s a standalone book. Real life doesn’t end the moment one big incident does, or the second a mystery is solved or a life saved. Leave the impression that their lives are continuing.
Keep It Believable
I’ve spoken before about a book (I never name it out of respect for the author), but the unbelievable ending took it from a 5 star read to a 1 star, in the space of a few sentences. The whole book pretty much switched genre for the last chapter just to give the mystery an explanation that no reader could’ve guessed. On an alternative note, I adored the ending of the Divergent Series, because (no spoiler) it just felt real to me, it felt exactly like what would’ve happened had the story been an account of true life. So although your novel can have huge twists and turns, make sure they are conceivable within the realm of the story you’ve written.
Think About Sequels
Are you going to have sequels or is it a stand alone book? If you’re not sure then it may be best to leave certain aspects open, so that if you do decide to continue the story it doesn’t seem forced or out of the blue. If you already know your book is part of a trilogy or series then you have more power to leave parts of the story ambiguous in the ending, because although it’s the end of a book it’s not the end of the story. You can leave little hints or dramatic endings to encourage people to pick up the next book as soon as they can.
Consider an Epilogue
Do you need an epilogue? It can be helpful when you need one final chapter to show what happened days/months/years later. Always consider if it is really needed, and whether it adds to the story or takes away from it. One of the most reader-dividing epilogues of our time is the one in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Some adored the glimpse into Harry’s future, others found it cheesy and out of atmosphere. Remember, you’ll never please everybody. As long as it ends the way YOU want, that’s all that matters.
How do you find writing endings? Easy or hard? Fun or stressful? Share your thoughts in the comments below.