Writing Wednesdays: How to end your story

October 18, 2017
How should you end your story? I offer up a few ideas in this post.

I almost kicked off this post by saying 'Finding the ending to your book is one of the hardest parts of writing', but you know what? Everything about writing a book is pretty hard.

Endings included.

Before I do anything else, I want to talk about a couple of popular types endings you might have come across in books before. I'm only going to focus on four - the four I consider to be the main types. I'm not going to sit here and say these are the only four types of endings to exist, but they're the four (probably most common) I'm going to focus on.

The Epilogue.

Much like you'll see a prologue at the beginning of a story to give you some background or even a teaser to a later point in the story, in a piece that feels somehow separate to the rest of the book, the epilogue is the counterpart at the end. Think of the 19 Years Later in Deathly Hallows. That's an epilogue. It's not just a last chapter: it's usually further in the future. Maybe a few weeks, a year, six years down the line. 

It's basically a conclusion. It usually ties everything up for the readers - though I have seen epilogues within a series (not in the final book of the series) that leave a few things unexplained or just create more questions to hook you into the next book, and they worked extremely well.

The Happily-Ever-After.

A bit like an epilogue, this will tie up your storylines neatly and leave your readers with next to no unanswered questions. I've separated this from the epilogue for two reasons: the first is that epilogues don't necessarily wrap things up completely; the second is that I always consider epilogues to be a bit separate. They tend to jump ahead a bit, as I explained above, whereas this type of ending will just follow on naturally with the storyline as is. Let's say your book takes place over the course of senior year. Maybe this ending would be graduation; the epilogue might skip through that and see them four years down the line in their dream job with the love interest they battled through the story to be with. 

The Cliffhanger.

You know the kind. Where you're almost at the end of the book, everything's kicking off, and you're wondering how the hell it'll be resolved in the thirty pages you've got left to go and... it doesn't. There's no resolution. You're left clinging to the pages thinking, And?! AND?! WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?! Cliffhangers can be a pain in the ass in a stand-alone novel, but as part of a series? Frustrating as hell when you don't have the second one to read, but they keep you reaching for the next book alright.

The open ending.

This is where things don't get tied up. It's different to a cliffhanger because it often just leaves things up to the readers' imagination. They tend to be upbeat and hopeful, but don't set things in stone. They won't wrap the story up neatly in a bow, but they'll put the ribbon out for you to imagine the bow.

I'm someone who loves when things are tied up neatly in a bow at the end of the story when it comes to romances, and will usually prefer that to an open ending, and yet... I finished The Kissing Booth with a hideously open ending and had zero regrets. It just felt right. I knew that worked best for me and for the story, and I was happy with it. It was hopeful and optimistic, but there was no 'And they got married and had three kids and had nice jobs and lived happily ever after'. 

Bt even open endings tie things up to some degree. (Did they work through the problems their relationship had encountered? A major hurdle for your character was their college application: did they get in? Maybe we never know how they got on in college, but we want to know if they got in. Someone was really sick - are they still being treated? Are they better?) Open endings at least imply some resolution to the conflicts you wrote about in your story.

Whatever ending you choose, it has to feel right. Don't force some neat ending where everything is tied off if you're planning to write a sequel and you could throw in a bit of a cliffhanger instead and you feel that works better. And don't write something just to appease your readers. 

If you don't want to end with an epilogue that shows your characters leading the blissful lives everyone's hoping for, but your readers are crying out for it because they weren't happy with your open-ended epilogue... You don't have to. 

Likewise, don't write a cliffhanger ending just because that's what you always write. It might be your personal favourite, but not necessarily the best for the book. Write the ending that works for the story. 

And above all: make your readers feel something. 

They've invested time in reading this story and they want to feel satisfied (and eager to read your next instalment in the series, if that's the case). They might feel frustrated by an open ending, granted, but they'll still feel something for the characters and the story. 

You want enough emotion to make them think, 'Wow, that was great'. You don't want that 'And then they woke up and found out it was all a dream' flat ending that makes them turn around and say, 'Well why did I waste my time?'

Do you have any recommendations or thoughts to share on how to end a story? Share in the comments below!

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.