Seven Perfect Endings for Your Story
WRITING UPDATE: Still working on my novella, Shadow of the Wicked. It’s in the hands of my beta readers and hopefully, by the end of the month, I’ll be looking for cover work and my mailing list subscribers will be the first to see it, and an ADVANCE READING COPY, so make sure you sign up!
As I promised in the previous post, I had big news concerning my blog and the writing tips I’ve been posting for 2021. The writing tips will slow down. A few will be posted here and there but the majority of my writing tips will be for the people subscribed to my mailing list and on the OMAM Publishing website.
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In my novella, Shadow of the Wicked, I got the feedback from my Beta Readers and most of them had a common problem. They weren’t satisfied with the ending.
Endings can be a controversial subject. One person’s brilliant ending can be another’s intense frustration. At first, I thought my ending was the best possible way to round it all out but after going over the comments, I realised that my ending was not the best option for my characters and plot. After vigorous edits with the plot and character development, I think my readers will be satisfied with the ending.
Different readers and different genres prefer different sorts of endings. No matter what you’re writing, the end is your opportunity to shine. It’s the culmination of all your hard work. And it’s extremely hard to get it right, believe me.
For an ending that leaves readers satisfied yet wanting more, remember these tips.
Deliver what you owe to the reader.
When a reader reaches the end of your book, they’ve invested several hours of their life in the story. By no means do you owe them a neat and happy ending, but you do owe them one that makes sense. One that has been foreshadowed in the plot points and mirrored in the pinch points. (If you don’t know what I mean, click here to find more. )
As you work your way through your novel’s final act, stay true to what has come before. That means no big changes in tone, voice, or structure. Avoid any significant tangents. Resolve the central conflict that binds your story together. Give readers an ending that provides some resolution and fits in with the rest of your book.
Focus on the plot.
You’ve spent the first part of your book building your world and letting your readers get to know your characters. Now you get to focus in on all that hard work.
I’ve noticed the final 20% of a good book seems to fly by. The first 20% takes me the longest to read. That’s because the final act is full of action. We don’t need much exposition, description, or opining from the writer. Think of it like a wedding: once you reach the main event, the heavy lifting should be over. You’ve worked hard for this moment, and it’s time to let readers watch it unfold.
Make sure your protagonist has experienced growth or change.
Endings don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns. Some of the best stories end on an ambiguous note with a protagonist who is still deeply flawed. However, readers should be able to see growth from your main character, even if most of that growth happens after the last page.
Think of it this way: if they spend several hours experiencing a story, most readers want to feel like they’ve traveled somewhere with the main character. If your protagonist doesn’t grow or change as a result of what happens in the story, then what’s the point? That’s not to say you need a radical transformation. This change can be subtle and still be very satisfying to the reader.
Trust your readers’ imaginations.
The best endings let readers imagine the characters continuing their stories after the last page. Important storylines need resolution, but avoid doing this so cleanly that your ending feels patronizing to the reader. A too-tidy ending will feel unsatisfying because it doesn’t leave readers with anything to think about.
Mirror the Hook.
Without making it too obvious, try to insert some kind of connection to your story’s hook. If you don’t know what a Hook is, it’s the thing that entices the reader to continue reading. It happens in within the first page or 1% of your story.
Readers love when a seemingly insignificant detail becomes important toward the end of a book. Look back to your first chapter and ask yourself how it relates to the final chapter. Can you mirror the setting or context? Place a small hint? Whatever you do, keep a light touch with this technique. Anything too heavy-handed will detract from your story.
Don’t require a sequel.
Writing and publishing are fickle arts. A hundred obstacles could get in the way of you and a promised sequel. With that in mind, focus on writing the best standalone book you can. Avoid introducing new characters and subplots late in the book. Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle, and end, even if you’re planning this book as part of a series.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t whet readers’ appetites for your next instalment. Just make sure they won’t feel cheated at the end of this book. Your goal is to satisfy and intrigue readers with your ending, not manipulate them into buying another book.
Ask for feedback.
Endings require a delicate balance of resolution and ambiguity, closure and intrigue. As always, you should discuss your novel draft with a trusted beta reader, critique partner, or critique group. You never know how your closing chapters will feel to someone brand new to your story. I’m fortunate I had my beta readers closely analyse all increments of my novella and providing that feedback to me before it was too late.
If you have any questions or ideas, for perfecting the end of your novel, make sure you post your comments or/ and answers below.
One thought on “Seven Perfect Endings for Your Story”
Totally agree with the “don’t force the sequel.” Many new authors never get the chance to write a sequel, and even when they do, it can be years off. I prefer books that conclude the narrative arc. It’s fine to leave a little cliffhanger, but resolve the core issues of this book by the end of this book.