The end of a story is what will determine whether or not the reader reads the next book. It is the final scene that influences their thoughts on the story as a whole, and a person’s most recent memories are more powerful than distant ones. Good stories that let down the reader in the end, are not reread. Of course, if you spend all your time on the ending, the other parts of the story tend to be lacking and a reader may give up before they get to those beautiful words.
I’m not saying one is more important than the other, but many people won’t always take the time necessary to write all the parts well. They will give up at a certain point just to be done. Perseverance is key to writers.
Tight as a Bow
It has been explained before that the ending of a book is like a bow on top of a present. A good writer takes all the loose ends and weaves them together in one final conflict. The end result leaves a pretty topper with most of the ribbon contained. There are some strands left unfinished, and the type of writing would determine how many ends are left astray.
A book in a series is sure to have more left unsaid but still contain some resolutions. Vice versa, a stand-alone novel will have most of the conflict solved, but not end the story completely. A really good ending is just another beginning. Life isn’t contained completely in a book and it becomes unrealistic to believe that is all there is. A writer isn’t containing the entirety of a person or place’s history on pages. That is what history and bibliographies do and even they don’t cover it all. No, a writer finds the most interesting conflicts and stories to write about and only ties together the story that they started.
Planing a Surprise
The end of a story is both a happy time where things get resolved and everyone gets to go home; and a sad time. It is sad because if written well, the reader will miss not being able to read more. There are also some stories where favorite characters die and things don’t go as hoped. Good endings are always emotional and contain a variety of them.
Plot twists and surprises are common here. As long as they are appropriate, a good surprise at the end can really tie everything together. It can reveal an idea that shocks your reader to their core, and yet is completely expected when you look back. Foreshadowing is key to that.
Some writers plan the ending ahead of time but find their characters wanting to do things differently. If you trust your characters, and their actions surprise even you, that’s when you know you’ve done it right. Planning can help you keep track of everything that is needed, but you can’t force the story either. It is usually the fourth or fifth idea that is the golden one. It is okay to rewrite your story to fit in line with better ideas. Outline writers need to be more flexible here while discovery writers need to persevere.
So take the time that the ending deserves to wrap your story up nicely. Plan and rewrite. Listen to your characters or drop them if they are in the wrong story. Fulfill your promises and make the end one to remember.
Photo by Matt Botsford