‘After all, tomorrow is another day!’
These words concluded the popular Gone with the Wind.
Endings can pack a lot of power. They can make or break novels and films. Some authors like to keep the door open for the reader’s interpretation while others like to tie a ribbon on everything. No matter what kind of ending you come up with, it should ultimately make sense.
In the article, I’ll teach you how to end a story, give you some examples of story endings, and detail the different types of endings.
Why Are Story Endings Important?
A lot of stock is put into writing an enticing beginning for your novel because that’s what’s going to convince a literary agent or publisher to look at your work, and more importantly, get a reader to keep reading your book. However, equally important, or sometimes more so, is being able to properly end your novel too.
In this past decade, the world has changed drastically. Social media apps are vying for people’s attention, and in the midst of this technology boom, it has become more important than ever to write books that are fast-paced, and logical in their endings.
An ending that doesn’t make sense can easily frustrate a reader, sometimes enough to put them off the rest of the author’s works. Therefore, it has become of great importance for an ending to be satisfying.
It doesn’t have to be a happy ending; a sad ending can be effective too. It just has to be an ending that leaves the reader with the sense that all the time they invested in the book was worth it.
Let’s look at all the different ways in which you can end your own story.
Types Of Endings
Often known as one of the most popular and well-loved endings, the resolved ending basically leaves nothing behind and ties a bow on everything.
We don’t need to wonder anymore about the fate of the characters as all of that’s explained and all loose ends are tied up.
A good example of a resolved ending is Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. The Delaney family love each other dearly, but there are cracks in every family. When Joy Delaney goes missing, it throws the lives of her husband and four adult kids into disarray. Moriarty is known for her family-based suspense novels, and in this novel, it’s made abundantly clear where Joy has been after she returns to her family. All the remaining plot threads are resolved with a nice happy ending for the reader.
However, having a resolved ending doesn’t necessarily mean a happy one. It could be a tragic ending, but if all the loose ends have been tied, then it’s a resolved one too.
If you’re thinking of a resolved ending for your novel, then you’ll definitely need to make sure that you’ve answered all of the burning questions the reader might have.
This kind of ending is usually very common when writing a trilogy or series. The door is usually left open for the reader to anticipate what might happen in the next part. These endings are also used to great effect by TV series as they need something to lure the viewer back for the next episode.
An example of an unresolved ending is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Although a lot of questions about the Triwizard Tournament and Harry Potter’s involvement in it are answered, the ending still raises more questions than ever. For example, what will happen now that Lord Voldemort’s back? That alone surpasses the idea of the tournament.
If you’re planning to write a series, then an unresolved ending (which some may call a cliffhanger) would work really well for you.
An ambiguous ending is very different from an unresolved one as it’s open to interpretation by the readers. They get to decide what might happen next in the characters’ lives. Although some closure is provided by the author, there is a small window left open.
The film, Inception, probably contains one of the most famous ambiguous endings in recent times. In the film, all Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio) wants is to be with his kids in the real world. When he finally gets the chance to do just that, viewers are still left to interpret whether this is all actually happening in the real world or not.
Ambiguous endings can be interesting, but there’s always the threat of frustrating your reader/viewer.
It might be wise to explore the works of authors who have attempted these endings before trying it for yourself. If not done right, it may mean that the reader won’t pick up your book again.
A very popular type of ending for mystery and suspense novels is the surprising/unexpected ending. In this one, the reader’s led to believe that the story is going in a certain direction, but at the last moment, there’s a twist.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is an excellent example of a novel with a twist you won’t see coming. Adele/Rob has been in love with David for a long time, but David’s married to Louise. Through something called astral projection, Adele/Rob takes on Louise’s body while Louise is forced into Adele/Rob’s. The twist that follows is one that will shock readers.
Often a staple in crime/suspense novels, this ending is not as easy to achieve as it seems.
If you’re planning to write a twist ending, then you must be sure that the twist doesn’t come out of the blue. It has to be somewhat rooted in reality, and while it may not be expected, it shouldn’t be so unrealistic that it has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever. It must be believable or else it will just infuriate the reader.
Often mistaken for an unexpected ending, a suspense ending is something that does justice to the overall pace and plot of the novel, delivers on suspense, and makes the novel a satisfying read.
A good example of this is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Documenting the lives of Amy and Nick Dunne, the novel became a major bestseller due to its compelling plot twists. Towards the end of the novel, it’s clear that after staging a disappearance, Amy has returned to her husband, Nick, and is also pregnant, which forces Nick to stay with her.
Not every book can be like Gone Girl, but it is possible to maintain suspense and offer an ending that pays homage to the opening.
A tied ending is when the story comes full circle i.e. it ends right where it started. It’s often used to document a hero’s journey and show how they’ve reached where they are today because of the way things began for them.
This is a commonly used ending in crime fiction today where the main character is shown to be involved in something in the present and then the story takes us into the past to show how it all came about.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood is a good example of this; we are introduced to Grace Marks who has been in prison for eight years, and that’s when we delve into her past to see how she got to this point in time.
Readers are often interested in finding out what brought the character to this juncture in life. In many ways, Gone Girl could also be called a tied ending.
This type of ending is where there is an epilogue. The epilogue features a time far removed from the current story and explains what happens to the main characters during that time.
An excellent and very popular example of an expanded ending would be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. In the epilogue, the story jumps several years to reveal the three protagonists all grown up as they help their respective children onto the Hogwarts Express.
If you’re writing a novel that doesn’t allow you to tie up all the threads immediately, then having an epilogue is generally a good idea. It offers the readers a good window into what happens to the characters and leaves them satisfied.
How To Write A Satisfying Ending
Your novel’s opening might impress readers, but it’s the ending of your novel that will make them your fans. One of the tricks to writing a good ending is to devote as much time to it (if not more) as you’ve devoted to the beginning.
Here’s how to end a story in a satisfying way:
Know Your Ending Before You Write It
A lot of writers like to think that they will come up with an ending while they’re writing the book, but often enough, that’s not the case. Instead of being stuck or coming up with an inferior ending, it’s better to know how your story ends from the start.
Just have an end goal in sight. It doesn’t matter if you head for it straight or take a convoluted path. The goal should be the same.
Try Different Endings Before You Zero In On The One You Want
You’ll often find that a lot of films have alternate endings. That is precisely because it’s good to have options. You don’t want to back yourself into a corner.
Before you start writing your ending, experiment with different ideas that are floating in your head. If you like, you can actually write different endings before choosing the one you think works best.
Make Sure The Ending Is Believable
We are sometimes so engrossed in creating the biggest twist possible that we ignore a very important thing… believability.
Your ending doesn’t have to be a happy one. It just has to be a convincing one. If there’s a twist, it should be within the bounds of reason. If it’s so outlandish that it has nothing to do with the main plot, the reader will feel cheated.
A reader invests a great deal of time and effort into reading a novel. It goes without saying that they want to be satisfied after reading a book. Make it worth their while.
Your ending is basically the main character’s story coming to an end, so the presence of emotions is necessary. It will heighten the overall experience for the reader.
Plenty Of Tension
Just like emotions, tension is an essential component of a good ending. A novel generally follows a linear path with the tension reaching a crescendo as the novel ends. That is exactly what you should be doing.
If the stakes are high, make them higher. Give your main character plenty of obstacles. That’s how you’ll create a book that is truly ‘unputdownable’.
Make Sure The Hero Takes Centre Stage
Sometimes, writers end up giving the spotlight to secondary characters whilst ending a book. That isn’t a wise option. No matter what happens, your main character should always take centre stage in the ending. The novel is essentially about them, so the ending should be about them too.
Make Sure You Resolve The Conflict
Every book has a central conflict that needs to be resolved. For suspense novels, it might be the ultimate ‘secret’. For crime novels, it’s finding the ‘killer’. Therefore, it’s essential that an ending resolves the overall conflict in the novel.
Have A Fresh Perspective
Even if things are headed towards a predictable climax, you have the ability to use a fresh perspective. Give things a twist.
Even if it’s the generic plot of boy meets girls and eventually, they get married, you can pack enough tension and suspense in it that the reader won’t quite know how the two people will end up together.
Create A Lasting Impression
Think about the impression you want to leave on the reader. Is your book about creating lasting social change or is it about hope and the power of love? Figure it out and make sure you offer that in your ending.
Know When To End
Sometimes, a writer can get so engrossed in writing their story’s ending that they forget how long the book has become. Although every book is unique, it’s up to the writer to decide how much is too much. You don’t want to overdo things and dilute the overall experience.
It’s pretty clear that a novel’s ending matters as much as its beginning, if not more. Often, it’s the ending that lingers in the reader’s mind and helps them decide whether they want to read other books by the author.
If in doubt, having beta readers give you their honest opinion is an excellent idea.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You End The Last Sentence Of A Story?
The last sentence of a book captures its essence and should send out a lasting message to the reader. For example, in Gone with the Wind, the final sentence is one of hope whereas, in some crime novels, the final sentence alludes to things that are yet to come. It’s important to recognise the theme of your novel and the overall tone, and end it accordingly. The last sentence can often make or break a book.
What Makes A Good Ending?
A good ending is one that stays true to the overall theme of the novel and makes sense. It should satisfy the reader and offer the main character a chance to shine one last time. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending. It just has to be convincing so that the reader doesn’t feel cheated. A good ending has tension and excitement but also resolves the central conflict in the book.
How Do You End A Book?
There are several ways to end a book and your decision to end your novel a certain way depends on various factors, like the kind of book you’re writing. Suggestions for how to end a story or book include:
- A resolved ending
- Unresolved ending
- Ambiguous ending
- Unexpected/surprise ending
- Tied ending
- Suspense ending
- Expanded ending
Ultimately, the decision to end a book a certain way depends on the author, but it’s always worth noting that readers don’t appreciate an ending that doesn’t make sense to them or just comes out of the blue.
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