Today’s ‘Ask Inkitt’ Question: I’m ready to write the last few scenes of my book. Any tips on how to make sure the ending works?
This is a great question. Usually, when I begin a story, I already have the ending in mind. It may change a little as I develop the plot and characters through my writing, and I allow for that evolution when tweaks to the ending give it more punch. But, because the ending is so important to the reader experience, I’m thinking about it, at least in the back of my mind, the entire time I’m writing. Here are some of the important things to consider as you work toward the conclusion of your tale.
Show character growth.
Character growth shouldn’t suddenly be tacked on to the ending of your story, but by the end, readers should be able to trace a particular character’s evolution and understand how they got from there to here. It’s important to show how that character’s journey has impacted them. How has all the drama, adventure, heartbreak, or war changed them? Have they found redemption, earned a hard-fought peace, vanquished the dragon? Whatever the resolution, it’s likely cost the character something, or required them to change in some tangible way. Readers want to see evidence of this. Here are a couple of great articles on character arc and character growth: DIY Effective Character Arcs Part 1, Part 2, and Deep Dive into Characters.
Write a satisfying ending.
Does this mean you should always write a happy ending? No, but it does mean that the ending should be fitting to the story. As a reader, I want the major conflict resolved and I want to know the status of the characters I’ve become invested in. There are also genre expectations to keep in mind. If you are writing a murder mystery, readers want to know who did it by the end. In romance, a happy ending is nearly always required.
Tie up major loose ends.
Readers didn’t come this far into a story to be left with too many questions. You can certainly leave some things to your readers imagination, but, don’t leave major story arcs or sub-plots unfinished, unless it’s clear that there will be a sequel. Even then, this book should feel complete in its own right.
Earn your ending.
Build to the conclusion. You can do this by increasing the story’s pace, racing toward a major confrontation, adding more challenge for a character before reaching a goal. The stakes have to be high enough that readers feel the tension and hurry toward the ending alongside the characters.
You’ve got readers poised on the edge of their seats, waiting for you to bring this story to a satisfying conclusion. Don’t cheat! Twists are terrific, as long as they work. Happy endings are wonderful when appropriate. Magic is fine, as long as you’re following the rules you’ve created for that world. But don’t take the easy way out, and don’t use gimmicks that will irritate your readers. Earn the ending!
There’s no right way to end your book, only the way that works for the story you’ve created. Your ending should give readers a sense of satisfaction and completion, and if appropriate, an invitation to continue the journey in the next book.