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The End: A Beginner’s Look at Endings

The End
No doubt we could find a book on endings, hundreds of pages–scratch that–thousands of pages, a tome on endings. Nearly too much to consider as a beginning writer.

Endings are hard.

My high school swim coach always told me to end well. “No matter what,” he’d say. “End well.” It was good advice then, and even more so decades later. End well in the pool, at work; and for those of us who write, on paper. To end a novel well it seems one must tie up loose threads, but now that I say so I guess you may not want to tie things up at all. You love a good cliffhanger instead? Or a classic tragedy? So many choices. May I repeat: endings are hard.

Better than tying up everything into a pretty package, maybe we can all just agree that endings must serve the story, and hopefully, at least for this reader, satisfy the reader.

A satisfying ending is a great gift, really the last chance we have as writers to imprint our characters onto our readers. Traditionally there are five types of endings (though we know that there are many more). Will your ending break with tradition? I hope so.
hands typing
But in case you’d still like to know the Top Five:

  1. The Happy Ending (explicit or implicit): All goals achieved.
  2. The Twist: Unexpected resolution, but a resolution nonetheless.
  3. Classic Tragedy: The hero wins one battle, but loses something he/she loves.
  4. Crystal Ball: Time passage that allows the reader to see how it all works out in THE END.
  5. Ambiguous: Unresolved. Cliffhanger. Frustrating.

And maybe, more important than the resolution itself, are the last lines. They are the last breath of the book, you decide whether to make the reader inhale or exhale with those final words.

  1. It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.
  2. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
  3. The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.
  4. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.
  5. There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She was happy.

Will you write your grand ending today?

Posted on: March 31, 2016

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