How much time do you spend on the end of your story?
Are you that writer who writes the end right at the beginning of their story?
Whether you start at the end or develop the end during the midst of your ideas flowing on the paper; the end of your story is a pivotal part of the whole occurrence because that’s what going to stay on your readers’ minds for a very long period of time.
Writing the ending may make several writers restless. After all, a frail ending to a story that started with a thrilling twist would disappoint your readers.
The conclusion of your story has a massive impact on how readers will remember your book in years to come. If they are dissatisfied at the closing of the final chapter, they won’t likely read your next book or share the current read with others. While the beginning of your story might convince people to read your book in the first place, the end is what will determine if they turn from a reader into a follower of your work.
There are no right or wrong endings. Writing is subjective, and every reader will like different things. However, writers must keep reader expectations in mind while sketching their plot in words — and whether their story is best served by meeting or ousting those expectations.
Genre, plot structure, target audience, theme and the overall message (if any) are some things to consider when trying to determine reader expectations.
A reader expecting a spine-chilling thriller may not be interested in reading a mushy romance and vice versa. Children will always have quite a different set of expectations from a book than adult readers. Your theme and the takeaway for your readers will determine whether toppling or meeting their expectations is likely to go well.
Understanding the ways other writers end stories will help you no matter which approach you’d like to take, so let’s examine some of the most common types of endings out there, and why they work.
Paint a rosy picture. A resolved ending answers all questions and ties up any loose threads of a plot. Present the story with a gift-wrapped ending to the reader. This sort of conclusion is common to standalone books — especially romance novels, thriving on ‘happily ever afters’ — or the final tale in a series.
Leave questions unanswered, and leave the reader wanting to know how the story is going to continue. It lets them reflect on what the protagonist has been through and pushes them to imagine what is still to happen. Leave some doors open for your readers’ imaginations. Creating anticipation and excitement for what comes next, may work wonders if you’re writing a series. Everyone loves a good cliffhanger.
This one’s our favorite. Let your readers wonder about the “what ifs.” Don’t state what happens to the characters after the book ends. Let your readers speculate about what might come next — without creating a right or wrong answer. Leave things open to interpretation. To make your readers reflect on the meaning of your book, use ambiguity.
Lead your readers to believe that your book will end one way, then add a twist that they didn’t expect at all right on the second last page of your book. This however is a risk and must be handled brilliantly to make sure you don’t frustrate and infuriate your reader. To execute a flawless twist, you must lay groundwork throughout your book, so that the reader can reflect on the plot and exclaim about your prowess.
End the story where it began. A tied ending gives you a sense of direction when writing your book. Writing this way doesn’t make your ending easier. On the contrary, it is challenging to give a depth to those repeated actions and events so that, they have a completely different feel at the end than what they appeared to be at the beginning. You could start a story describing what may seem to your reader like a sunrise time but your conclusion may make it clear that the setting was in fact a sunset.
A classic example of this kind of a story is A Death in the Gunj written and directed by Konkona Sen Sharma.
Now that you have learned some theory, go get writing and apply this knowledge in practicality.
Happy WriteFluencing 💕