Writing Tips #9 in the Series
One thing can be worse than the empty page—as you come to the last pages of your Writers of the Future entry, or that book you’ve been planning on submitting to Tor—and that is a full page that leaves the reader unsatisfied.
Sometimes endings can be just as difficult as beginnings. When coming to a close on a story and discovering that you still don’t know how to conclude it there is something you must take into consideration. For the most part, all stories continue on. Unless destroying the universe, and even sometimes then, there will be life after the story told and the key is trying to bring things to an appropriate conclusion for the reader.
First, it is important to discern whether to finish the story by giving the reader a swift punch to the heart… or resolution and redemption. Perhaps some bittersweet area between the two? Decide if you are going to resolve all loose ends or leave somethings to the reader’s imagination after they close the book. After making the decision there are ways to wind things down from that big climax.
Mirror effect – Have the end of the story mimic dialogue, events, or detail that occur in the beginning. This can effectively put bookends on the story.
Flash Forward – This usually works for stories that have been brought to resolution. Jumping three weeks or five years into the future gives the reader a full scope understanding of the consequences/rewards the characters endured from their struggles.
Twist – take an assumption the reader has been led to believe and turn it upside-down on its head, subverting the reader’s expectations. To design an excellent twist ending, the result must be apparent in hindsight.
Open Ending – this does not imply that conflict has gone unresolved. It can mean that readers don’t go on with the character to find whether or not they actually get into college, marry the love of their life, or find their true place in the world. They can have come to a new resolution, realization, or have just conquered a great feat and still have many aspects in their life unresolved. It is akin to the lone rider who disappears into the sunset to an unknown destination with a plethora of issues still tacked to their belt.
Whether the goal is to leave a reader heartbroken, in tears, with more feels than they can handle, or fist pumping and exulting in the vicarious thrill of victory, they all cease with that last period or an eloquent The End. However, does the story really ever cease to go on…?
Guest blogger Peter J. Wacks is a bestselling cross-genre writer. He has worked across the creative fields in gaming, television, film, comics, and most recently, when not busy editing, he spends his time writing novels and there are over 3.5 million copies of his stories in circulation.
Co-author Holly Roberds wrote a science fiction/romance trilogy before being told to scrap the lot of it. Since then, she has hunted for all information about the craft of writing, honing and evolving her skills. Roberds is currently applying all hard-won knowledge to rewriting her novels, and getting her short stories published. She is also a professional freelance article/blog writer, singer/songwriter, and never has less than five jobs at one time.