Summer Writing Club: Endings

The end.

Forget those two words. Scrap them from your vocabulary. If you have to actually tell your reader that the story is over, you haven’t done your job as an author.

A good ending should grow out of the story itself, evolving from clues and events that unfold throughout the entire narrative.

If you imagine your story as a pathway through a forest, the ending should lead you to a clearing. It can be dark in the forest; the pathway can be winding; you might even get lost along the way; but when you are writing fiction, you should always be moving forward. Imagine the end of your story as a light at the end of the pathway, and head towards it.

Last month, we talked about Story Mapping and gave you some pointers on how to plot your story from beginning to middle to end. Since the goal of this month’s challenge is to finish a novelette, we want to focus today’s post on the last leg of the journey: the ending.

In most stories, the main character is seeking something that he or she wants. There is usually a conflict that stands in the way, and the protagonist must overcome obstacles to arrive at the end. As the author, you get to decide: Does your character get what they want? If so, make sure they have earned it.

To use the Olympics as a metaphor, Simone Biles didn’t win her gold medals just by showing up. She had to train for years, perform flawlessly in front of millions, and beat every other competitor. As an audience, we are rooting for her to win because we understand how hard she has worked. And when she does win, we are delighted and satisfied, because she deserves it. Your readers should feel the same way about your characters.

Of course, we don’t always get what we want. And not everyone gets to live happily ever after. You may have a character who doesn’t succeed in their quest, and that can make for a very interesting ending, too. Just be sure that you have set the stage for the reader so that the ending is still satisfying.

Maybe your protagonist doesn’t get what she wants, but learns something about herself that makes her stronger as a result. Or maybe she has to sacrifice herself to save someone she loves. If you have followed your story map and built towards a climax, the ending should follow naturally.

So, with all this in mind, you should be ready to wrap up your story! Here’s a checklist you can use to help you reach your conclusion.

Checklist for a Story Ending:

Do your characters:
- Achieve their goals?
- Learn something?
- Experience personal growth, for example, become braver/smarter/better?

Does the ending:
- Provide a sense of closure?
- Tie up loose ends?
- Grow naturally out of the rest of the story?

Are you leaving your reader:
- Satisfied?
- Surprised?
- Wanting more?

If you can answer all of these questions, you’ll be ready to write your final chapter. We can’t wait to read them! Remember, all finished novelettes must be less than 7500 words and submitted to moderation by August 25th to be eligible for this challenge. Read all the rules here.

Featured artwork by Anders Dahlström

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