Although this novel used to have an ending, it doesn’t have one anymore after countless (but necessary) revisions (a.k.a. total plot make-overs). Now I need an ending and there are so many ways this could end that I’m having trouble finishing it.
Conclusions are important because if you are successful in hooking your readers to the very end, it is usually the conclusion that the readers remember long after they’ve finished reading.
So I’ve done a little creative writing research for inspiration on how to finish the story. Seems like I’m not the only one who has problems with conclusions. Here are some of the best pieces of advice I’ve found on writing story endings. (Click the links for more details.)
Guidelines for Writing Satisfying Story Endings
- Effective endings show (or suggest) the result of the story's conflict.
- Effective story endings come from the main character's actions.
- Satisfying story endings use elements from the story's beginning and middle.
- Great story endings make the reader feel something.
Types of Endings to Avoid (Because They Are NOT Satisfying)
- The happily ever after
- The drawn out dream
- The guilty hero’s monologue
- The lover’s life
Other Types of Endings that (Dis)Satisfy
- The “right” ending
- The unpredictable element
- The plot twist
- The dark moment
- The epiphany
- The could-have-changed-but-didn’t dead end
- Comingling happy and sad
- Leave room for interpretation
- Ties up loose ends quickly
Best Book Endings (According to Publisher’s Weekly)
I appreciate this list, though it’s worth noting the male authors outnumbers the female authors here. Who are some other female authors who have written effective book endings?
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
- Being Dead by Jim Crace
How Should I End My Story?
I don’t like endings that wrap it all up in a nice little bow. I enjoy endings that leave something open to reader interpretation because those kinds of endings make me ponder and learn about myself and my world outside the scope of the novel. They are also great conversation starters.
I’ll re-explore some of my favorite novels to see how they ended. And then maybe I’ll draft a few different endings and see which one fits best. Wish me luck!
Do you have any tips for writing conclusions? What are some of your favorite story endings?
Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor