Making Sure Your Story’s Ending Fits The Bill

It can be difficult to get the ending of story to work. There is always a temptation to rush the ending as you are so desperate to finish your masterpiece, and sometimes endings are left quite ambiguous because you feel that this is a much better way to encourage a sequel. But a rushed ending or an ambiguous ending can leave the reader frustrated, and can spoil what was otherwise an excellently written book. When it comes to creating the ending to your book, have a think about the following questions:
1. Does the ending bring promises made at the beginning of the book to fruition?
If your book is a romance piece, then have you provided a love story and ended with a fully resolved relationship? This doesn’t necessarily mean that the heroine and the hero need to end up together, but their relationship should be well defined and wrapped up by the end of the book. Similarly, if you have promised your reader a mystery story, then the mystery needs to have been solved by the end of the book. Bringing all of the promises from the beginning of the book together by the end does not necessarily mean that you need to tie up everything nice and neatly. You can of course have ambiguities, but the reader should at least see that the main storyline is in some way resolved, or they should feel sufficiently satisfied that they know what will happen next in the storyline, and what the principle characters would do next, if the story were to continue.
2. Has the lead character grown in some way?
The reader needs to see that by the end of the story the principle character or characters have grown in some way, and that this growth or change has taken place through their own efforts.
3. Does the ending feel overwritten or, alternatively, rushed?
An ending does not need to be dragged out – this can just detract from the flow and pace of the story. However, it also does not need to be rushed. Barbara Dynes provides a nice exaggerated example of a rushed ending to illustrate this point; ‘Bob caught the thief, by knocking him unconscious. Later, the guy got two years in a gaol for robbery and attempted violence.’ In this example, the reader is told what happens at the end of the story as opposed to having been shown. This is the mark of an inexperienced writer and a rushed ending, and should be avoided.
4. Does the ending fit with the rest of the story?
The outcome of the book (aka the ending) needs to be inevitable – it has to fit with the rest of the storyline. A surprise that is completely out of context with all of the material that has preceded it will not work.
5. If you are hoping to add a twist to the story… have you kept that twist until the very end?
If you have written a short story and you plan to add a twist into the story right at the end, then the twist itself should feature in the very last line of the written piece. Or… even better… in the very last word. Now that really is a challenge!

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