Last week, we talked about ways to end a scene or chapter. You can have a look at that article here: Five Ways to End a Scene. Today, let’s focus on ending the book. What do we owe our readers after we’ve pulled them into our story and invested them in our characters? How can we end our novel with the same good writing craft that we’ve been striving for throughout?
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you work towards an ending:
Be fair to your readers.
Does this mean you always need to give them a happy ending? No, but it does mean that the ending should be fitting to the story. As a reader, I want to be satisfied when I close the book. I want the major conflict resolved and I want to know the status of the characters I’ve become invested in.
There are also some expectations based on genre to keep in mind. For example, if you are writing a murder mystery, readers expect 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, and if fact you should. But, don’t leave major story arcs or sub-plots unfinished, unless it’s clear 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, building 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 want to race 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, and as long as there is a hint of a realistic future for the characters. Magic is fine, as long as you’re following the rules you’ve created for that world. Don’t take the easy way out, and don’t use gimmicks that will irritate your readers.
Show your character’s growth.
Readers are invested in these characters. They’ve followed them on a journey. They want to see how all the drama, adventure, heartbreak, or war has changed them. Have they found redemption, earned a hard-fought peace, vanquished the dragon? Whatever the resolution, it’s likely cost the characters something, or required them to change in some tangible way. Readers want to see evidence of this.
There’s no right way to end your book, only the way that works for the story you’ve created. Consider your own experience as a reader when bringing your story to a close. Your ending should give readers a sense of satisfaction and completion, and if appropriate, an invitation to continue the journey in the next book. And writers, congratulations on reaching the end!