Endings: one of the hardest parts of the writing process.
When you commit to writing a novel, you’re not just putting words on paper– you’re embarking on a journey. You’re diving into the hearts and minds of real human beings (even if they’re not biologically human– don’t give me that excuse) and seeing the world through their eyes, pushing them through the joys and hardships of life, watching them grow and bond and develop. Some live and some die. But even the best novel ever written has to end somewhere.
Of course, writing an ending doesn’t meant you’re saying goodbye for good– these are your characters, and this is your story, so they’ll be with you forever! But the same doesn’t exactly go for your readers; they’ll expect and want a good ending when it comes to that. So here are three tips to make your ending impact your reader as much as that long-ago first line.
#1: Coming Full-Circle
This is when the first line/beginning of your story ties in with the ending by including the same phrase or situation. I LOVE it when books come full-circle, especially with long series!
Here’s an example from Jill Williamson’s Mission League series (which I really recommend, by the way!):
Beginning: The first book opens with Spencer playing basketball with C-Rok and his “gang” in the park. This hook, while seemingly small in the long course of the four-book series, does serve to lead into the major events that bring Spencer into a new– and much more thrilling– chapter of his life.
End: The very last scene of book four at the end of the series brings Spencer back to the old park and once again playing a game with C-Rok and his boys. In this way, this series brought the story full-circle.
I had another example coming your way, but I conveniently forgot what it was while writing the above xD
#2: Waiting ’til the End
Here’s a don’t for endings… Please don’t wait until the last minute to tie up an alarming subplot or storyline or questions the reader might have. Please do that BEFORE the resolution of the story, or at least long enough before the very last scene that you don’t end up just telling the reader what really happened. Say you’re writing a romance story, and earlier on in the story someone disappeared in suspicious circumstances.
If the very last scene is a wedding or proposal scene (because let’s be honest here, most romance stories do end that way), it would be jarring for you to suddenly mention “and as it turned out, Bob had not died but in fact had just been taking a really long time at the grocery store” whether that be spoken directly or in the narrative. Readers become disgruntled when their questions aren’t answered in a timely fashion (or at least I do, especially when I don’t like super-sweet romantic ending scenes).
#3: Give room for further development
Remember, this may be the end of your story, but it’s far from the end of theirs.
Your characters will still keep living and growing even without their stories being committed to paper, or at least you can give the illusion of that by teasing into their future lives in your ending. I mean, you could just have a really big dramatic climax and then they calmly walk off the battlefield, but I’m sure we all prefer nice, solid, resolute endings where we can feel fully satisfied that the end is just the beginning.
It also gives the reader a nice, solid, resolute feeling of the story having actually ended– by not ending the characters’ lives (I mean that in the most figurative way possible). Every person continues growing and learning throughout every stage of their life– unless they don’t, but we’re using positive change arcs in this example– and single arcs are really just capturing one stage. That way, the readers can feel as if these characters are moving on to another.
And with that… the time has come for a rather bittersweet announcement.
This post is my last here on TotLS. I’ve had such a wonderful time among this community and the other three girls, and I’m so happy for this experience. But, yes, for multiple reasons, I’m officially leaving the TotLS team this week. I’ll still be posting on my personal blog, Imperial Scribis, and I’ll be putting up writing-related stuff from time to time, so come say hello!
But this is my goodbye on this amazing platform. So cheers, everyone, and don’t forget to always be a happy camper!
Until we meet again,
~ Merie Shen