Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource and we have put together a list of 5 essential elements for writing a perfect ending.
‘Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.’ ~Mickey Spillane
We can divide a story into a beginning, which is roughly a quarter of a book, a middle, which is half the book, and an end, which is the last quarter. This last part of your book is your reader’s reward for going on this journey with you. It is the part we remember because it has, or should have, the most drama in it.
I recently wrote a post on creating a gripping read after reading The Miniaturist. This book was a page turner until the very end. I was lucky enough to read a few more of these this year, including Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. These authors all managed to set up and execute their endings perfectly.
The 5 Essential Elements Of A Perfect Ending
Here are five tips, which all of these authors used, that will help you to end a story so that readers will want to read your next book.
1. Narrow your protagonist’s options.
There should be a building sense of the inevitable here. Your protagonist begins to realise that the path to his or her story goal lies in only one direction – usually the one he or she has been trying to avoid.
Allow your protagonist to try other options and fail. The antagonist is important in this part of the book because he or she should create obstacles for the protagonist. The antagonist wins most of the conflicts in this part of the book. Until the final one.
2. Make everything worse for your protagonist.
Keep us wondering whether or not your protagonist will achieve his or her story goal. The worse the story gets and the fewer pages we have left, the more suspense you are able to build. This makes for gripping reading.
The perfect ending of your novel should contain fewer sequels (periods of reflection) and more scenes (periods of action).
3. Resolve all story lines.
Plot your novel so that every scene reflects how your story will end. You can do this by planning the ending before you start to write, but you can also work backwards once you have finished writing.
The story lines must resolve themselves. The least important story lines usually end soonest. The more important they are, the longer you can keep us in suspense. Don’t introduce any new characters, settings, or sub-plots in the last quarter. Resolve the central conflict.
You do not have to provide a happily-ever-after ending, but try to give us some hope.
4. Tie up loose ends.
Try not to leave any of these hanging about. Every question should be addressed, even if you tell us a character will deal with it after the book ends.
You can eliminate unnecessary characters to reduce storylines. In a detective story you clear suspects, or add a victim to the murderer’s list that makes the protagonist more determined to catch the killer. If you’ve asked a question that was relevant to the plot, even if it was a red herring, answer it.
5. End on a strong note.
The most important thing is to create a sense that the story has ended. The perfect ending does not need gimmicks. Don’t include quirky twists or trick endings. We like it when we can see that the protagonist’s actions have created the ending because of the choices he or she has made.
If we’re still there at the end, it’s because we are invested in the outcome. You want our final impression of your writing to be positive. As readers, we don’t like to feel as if we have been tricked or cheated. Tip: We also enjoy an ending where an early, seemingly trivial detail plays a part.
If you enjoyed this post, read:
- 13 Ways To Start A Story
- The Importance of Inciting Moments
- The Two Types Of Inciting Moments
- How To Write A Beginning And An Ending That Readers Will Never Forget
- Start Here: 3 Things You Need To Do At The Beginning Of Your Novel
- The Sense Of An Ending – How To End Your Book
- 14 Points To Consider Before You Write The Ending
- What Is A Denouement?
- 7 Extremely Good Reasons To Write The Ending First