Endings

end-of-the-worldEndings can be a tricky business. It’s tough to do well. Here are a few things you want to keep in mind as you’re wrapping your book up.

First: know where you’re going. Even if you don’t have an outline, have a plan in mind. It helps give the characters a sense of purpose. When you get about half-way done with your book, reevaluate where your characters are, and how they got there. Then, ask yourself what the next steps are.

Second: Leave your characters options. Of course, you want to create conflict and take options away, but they should still have SOME option. Something that will allow them to emerge victoriously. If they have no options, your ending will be forced into the dreaded Deus ex Machina!

Third: What loose threads do you have running through your work? Sometimes, simply evaluating what you’ve already done will really help you write toward the future, toward the inevitable end. Is there a way you can tie up one thread with another? Can you have the character change at the critical time, just as he defeats the villain and wins the heart of his true love? The more closely these things can happen, the more powerful your ending will be.

Fourth: Try to find something unexpected, but inevitable. Flannery O’Connor talks a lot about this. And while it sounds tough to do, it’s still possible. The way you can do it is to present the obvious solution, and then give reasons that might prevent that solution from occurring. For example, in order for your character to defeat the bad guy, he must abandon his faithful traveling companion. The characters recognize this early on, but proceed as if they can find another way. Let them find hope that another opportunity for victory exists. If you take away this new hope, all that’s left is the first option. And while not ideal for your characters, it can have a profound impact on your readers.

But you’re stuck, you say? You’ve written yourself into a corner and left your characters no option? Again—evaluate. What do they have. List their assets. Then find a way to link them together to find a solution. Or ask yourself what they need to emerge victoriously, then go back and add that into the flow of the story somewhere. Another solution to the “stuck” problem is to write the dreaded Deus ex Machina, and then go back and foreshadow it enough so that it feels natural, so that it feels right. This is not the best option, but it is still an option. Astute readers will be able to pick out when you do this.

Tricky as they are, endings give you a great opportunity for profound emotional impact on the reader. Treat endings with the time, care, and respect they demand, and your readers will thank you.

12 Comments on Endings

  1. alexandria heins | March 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply

    The ending is one of the biggest assets of a story it can make or break it. When a reader finishes a story the ending makes the author a friend or an enemy to the reader. I like to make my ending wrap up to the beginning and i like most of the loose ties brought together. Some loose ends are important as well.

  2. Brittany Walters | March 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Reply

    I think that it’s important to make the ending worth while. A reader doesn’t want to read an entire novel that has a terrible ending. The ending should make the reader feel like they accomplished reading a good book. How can you make the reader feel accomplished if the ending of the story is completely horrible? The ending should come after all of the loose threads. You can’t end the story until you wrap up the loose threads first.

  3. Ending are the biggest par of any story. They either help or hurt your story. Sometimes the endings can be challenging to write. The endings should tie up the loose endings of your work. Maybe we should work on endings soon.

  4. Alyssa Varney | March 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    I think that the endings have a huge impact on how your book will be looked at by other people. If your character has a problem you might not find the solution until the very end of your story. Maybe sometimes the ending will answer the questions that all the readers will have in their head. I think we should work on endings in class to help when we are writing a story or short-story.

  5. ashley lopez rivera | March 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Reply

    Endings have ALOT of ways that it can happen. It is really important to the book and I think the ending should be special. I always like to end my stories with mystery or sometimes something sentimental and heartbreaking.. or heart-warming. Anyways, in the prompts we write in class, I try my best to make the story interesting… sometimes i get lazy and not really care about the ending, and I’ll just write something quickly, but other times I try really hard to think and write what the endings should turn out like. I guess the ending really does affect the whole story. For example, in the book To Kill a Mockingbird that we were reading in my english class, I found the ending not all that satisfying. I mean, in the last sentences of every chapter, the words would mean something… like, it would keep you reading on. The ending sentences were mysterious or surprising and always left you at, “What’s going to happen next?”.(to me, anyway) and then at the end of the book, the last sentence was kind of boring, and had really no mystery or surprise. Not that i’m saying it had to, but i would’ve liked it to. So i was kind of dissapointed in that book. I didn’t really feel accomplished about reading that novel. But anyways, I have this book that I’m writing, (only for me), and i thought of the ending, and how it is going to happen, but with all that happens in the story, my endings fly all over the place and always change. so i honestly don’t know how my long story is going to end, but i’ll try my best to come up with an ending that makes sense, and that i really like.

  6. Karolina Bibian | March 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Reply

    So I think that part that sucks really bad is reading a book…and then the ending just killed the whole story. The writer must really work on this because you might have a great story great beging and everything but the ending is the part that mostly sticks with a person. You can’t have like a totally random ending or one that is just so pointless since this may led to the lost of many readers!

  7. All it takes to ruin an otherwise wonderful story is a terrible ending. There have been too many books to count that just “end” without having a real “ending”. Don’t do that. Please. It’s lame. The best endings leave the reader with their jaw dropping in awe and that joyfully sad feeling of a great ending to a great story. Consider that when you write your ending, and edit it as many times as you feel you need to until it’s absolutely perfect. If possible, make your ending feel almost like the prelude to a new beginning. You don’t need to write a sequel necessarily, but give the reader room to imagine one if they want to.

  8. John Powderly | April 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply

    It’s weird when you read a book and you expect it to end a certain way, but then it completely takes a different direction and ends in some random way. Normally I don’t mind if that happens, mainly because I really enjoy twist endings. But not everybody is up for that, and I can understand why being cautious of how you end the story would be smart.

  9. Brandy Placeres Per.6 | April 15, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply

    I find that I struggle with endings the most. They come out rushed or not enough. I usually end a story to just get it over with. Giving the character options- I need to remember that.

  10. I always mess up my endings like… i have no idea how to make it and ending but make it seem like it will keep going or i just rush it ery fast like “he went down the hall and thats when he found her dead the end” thats how my endings have been lately but this has helpoed me quite a lot now i no a lil more of how to do this better

  11. Darryl_Sanderson | May 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply

    Endings are something I am not too great at. I can never seem to get a good ending or when I do actually end it, I realize that there was A LOT of “loose ends” I never even tied up

  12. Cameron Rohskothen | May 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply

    Endings, just like first lines, are essential to the story and set the entire tone for the whole story. It’s like icing on the cake- if the cake is delicious and sweet, but the icing is bitter, then the entire cake is ruined. I personally feel that the best way to resolve a story is to end it somewhat vaguely, but to close any holes left in there as well.

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