3 Important Rules for Writing Endings

This post is by JB Lacaden, a reg­u­lar reader of The Write Practice. If you haven’t already, you’ll definitely want to check out his blog, JB Learns to Write, and follow him on Twitter (@jblearnstowrite). Thanks for join­ing us today, JB!

Trying to start a short story or novel can be difficult, but providing a satisfying ending is just as hard, if not harder.

Recently, I submitted a flash fiction story hoping to get it published. Two days later, the editor replied telling me how much he liked how the story. Unfortunately, he said, the ending didn’t provide enough answers. “Make the end worthwhile”, he said in his last sentence, “and I’ll publish it.”

Riding into the Sunset The End

How many of you struggled in writing a satisfying end for your story? I know I did. After reading that email, I quickly edited my story. I revised and revised and created different versions on how the story ended. Eventually I came up with one that I found satisfying. This time, the story got accepted!

This experience taught me one thing: Writers have to finish strong.

Here’s how:

1. Respect your readers.

Your readers spend time and effort reading your words. The least you can do is respect them by providing an entertaining story—this means writing your best from beginning to end. In my flash fiction story, I got lazy. I haphazardly ended the story just to end it. Fortunately, for me I was given a second chance to correct that mistake. Don’t do the same.

2. Fill in all the holes.

Whenever you’re writing a novel, you want to make it as thrilling and as well-written as possible. You lay out the plots and subplots, and you provide readers with the dramatic questions that’ll keep them hooked.

But for each question you raise, you are tasked with the responsibility of providing an acceptable answer. No one wants to finish an Agatha Christie story without knowing who did it.

Unless you’re planning a sequel, don’t leave any questions hanging.

3. The end must be in line with the story.

Deus Ex Machina, or an ending that comes unexpectedly from out of nowhere, has to be the most frustrating type ending I could think of. Avoid this like the plague.

Your ending must be logical.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a ghost story where the protagonist finally faces off with the evil, supernatural entities haunting his or her little house? Then, in the middle of their fight scene, the Ghostbusters arrive. Doesn’t seem logical, does it?

Suddenly providing a quick out will only drive readers away.

One form of Deus Ex Machina I often see are dreams. You read the story from beginning to end only to find out that everything was just a dream. You just wasted your readers’ time. There are moments when the dream approach works but unless handled the right way, it will only pull your story down.

Don’t just throw in some random ending that will magically solve everything. Work. Don’t shortchange them.

Writing’s like baking a cake. A proper ending is waiting for the right time to take the cake out of the oven. If you become impatient and take it out too early and it may get ruined.

How do you try to end your stories? 

PRACTICE

It’s the night James finally faces off with the supernatural entities hunting his house. He’s prepared everything the carnie fortune teller had told him to prepare. How will you provide a satisfying end to James’ story?

Write for fifteen minutes, and post them in the comments.

About JB Lacaden

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