Every facet of a short story or novel has its own unique importance, and each one needs to be carefully put together and presented in order for it to be effective. The title should be catchy and persuasive because it invites the reader to our creation; the book cover should grab their attention and draw them in; and the book description should captivate them into reading the story. But the ending is the thing that will make or break the story.
A good ending will leave the reader satisfied that the story has ended, and yet at the same time it will leave them wanting more. The ending of any novel or short story is our hidden invitation to readers to get to our next story, so it’s crucial that the ending be a good one.
The ending of any narrative ties in all the conflicts that we’ve written about throughout the story and brings closure on each of them. Nothing new is introduced in the ending because anything that we’ll write about here has already been mentioned, thought of or inspired in the body of the story – usually in the beginning. We may not dwell on what will turn out to be a surprise ending, but the story itself will prepare the reader for something, even if it’s camouflaged and comes at them as a shock at the time. They’ll be able to grasp the reality of the ending by something that we mentioned earlier on.
Aspiring writers will often write a potentially good story and then instead of following through with a dynamic ending, they’ll just end it with a fast and weak conclusion.
How can you tell if your ending isn’t a good one?
Read your own story and then ask these questions:
Does the ending leave you wondering what happened to certain people or things in the story?
Does the ending leave you asking why, where, how, who or when?
Does the ending fit in with the story?
Is the ending believable?
Is the ending disappointing in that the story has been full of hype and then just ends?
Are you left thinking that the ending doesn’t make sense, or that it’s just plain stupid?
If you can ask any of these questions and get yes for an answer, then you know that your readers are going to ask them, as well. You can correct the ending and turn it into something better now – before it’s published – but they can’t; what they’ll do is not read another story that you write because the ending to this story was such a disappointment.
If you’re not sure how to write a great ending, you can speak with another author, an editor or a writing coach, or take some writing courses to get the inspiration and insight that you need. You can also read books that are along the same line as yours so that you can see how another author ended their story. You don’t have to copy their ending, but you’ll get a better understanding of how that author brought all the loose ends together to give the story a great ending.
And always remember that the great ending to one story is often the invitation to another one, so we need to make the ending one that will keep the readers wanting more and waiting for our next story.