Feb 25, 2015 · 26 Comments
sierrabookbattler asked me to give an explanation of endings.
Beginnings are all about hooking the reader, and introducing the reader to your character's normal life before all the action starts. Endings are all about giving the reader an idea of what the character's life will be like now that everything is over, and about giving a satisfying ending to a story that will hopefully tie up all the questions you've asked throughout the story. Unless it's a series, in which case you will tie up the main parts of this story but there'll be an overall story that's stretched over the whole series (this is where middles come in).
Through the course of the story, you will have created one main question (IN WSOTR it was whether or not Romy and Julian would be able to be friends when everyone else in town had chosen sides), and also quite a few other questions, some big, some small (In WSOTR it was the school play, Romy's parents' marriage, Julian's relationship with his dad, where the park would actually end up, and who is that odd Mrs. Gunderson anyway?).
Some of these questions will come up in the beginning, some come up during the course of the book. To create a satisfying end to the story, you need to answer those questions for your reader, and there's a lot of different ways to do that.
You can create a happy ending, a sad ending, a hopeful ending, even a depressing ending, but they will only work well if you tie up all those little threads you've got going. If you're planning a series, it's a bit different because you will need to create a bit of a cliffhanger that will leave people wanting to know what happens in the next book. It still has to feel at least somewhat satisfying, though, or your readers will feel cheated.
So, what are the important things to include in the end of a story?
Think about all the mini-stories you've had within your story and how you can wrap those up in a way that explains things for your readers. In WSOTR, it took a few chapters to tie everything up, and some things were tied up earlier than others. But by the end, we knew how it all turned out and had an idea of what Romy and Julian's lives would be like in the future.
Another thing to note is that you want the ending to be believable compared to the rest of the story. What I mean by that is, if your story is about two kids living in a small town that is divided over where a new park will be built, and it's set in our real world (even if it's an exaggerated version of it), don't have it all end when aliens suddenly swoop down from the skies and blow everyone up--unless you have set it up from the beginning of the book to be a possibility--perhaps there have been mysterious crop circles turning up in the grass where the park is to be built, or one of your characters is sure they saw a little green man at some point, or something like that. If there's been no hint of that throughout the book and you suddenly introduce something no one could have imagined, it will leave your readers feeling a bit cheated.
That's a pretty exaggerated example, but it applies to smaller things too. Imagine if in WSOTR, when we got to the end of the book, we had their parents all met on the bridge at the end and yell, "surprise! It was all a joke, we don't even care about the park!", or in the last chapter, Julian woke up and realized the whole thing had been a dream. That last one always seems like a great idea to shock readers with right at the end, but considering the whole way through the story, we've been asking a reader to believe in the world we've made, and to feel involved and to love our characters, then they're not going to feel very happy if they reach the end only to find out the whole thing never happened and never mattered anyway.
So those are the main points I can think of when it comes to endings. A good ending will feel like most of the important questions have been answered, so it feels satisfying, and lets us know a little of what the characters' lives will be like going forward. Authors who can do that will still have fans who adore their books, even if the ending was terribly sad and not at all how the readers wanted it to end. We can handle sad endings, so long as they are satisfying and feel like we've had all our questions answered in a satisfying and believable way.
I hope that helps! Let me know if you need more (or any other questions you might have about anything at all. Although, I can't help with your math homework because, unlike Grayson, I didn't even know calculus was a thing until recently)