Finishing Touches: Ending a Story

Most of the time, coming up with a title and a great plot is the easiest part to writing a story. The hardest part is usually the ending, regardless of how long the story is. Sometimes it’s in your head right from the beginning, but sometimes you’re making it up as you go and then get stuck.

Often a writer will find himself or herself puzzling over what the best option is to end their story, sometimes concluding that it is far easier to not bother attempting to write an ending. The ending is important, and hopefully these options and tips can help you find what is best for your story.

The Unexpected Twist

This is a great way to shock your readers and leave their emotions boiling afterwards. You’ve probably already been leading your story up to a certain ending that every reader can predict, so throwing in the opposite finale can be a great read. The twist could be something small and simple, like implying something different in the last sentence with a pun. It could also be something much more drastic, like the main character’s best friend is the serial killer, or Liam was only pretending to be in love with Eve all along. Perhaps a cliché ending like waking up and the whole story was a dream is a good option for your ending.

However, this idea does not come without flaws. The main thing to watch out for when using this technique is that it has to be realistic. Drop subtle hints with foreshadowing that might make the reader question that best friend’s motives. That way, when they do read the ending, they are surprised, but it’s believable. If you’ve already written out your whole story and just need a chapter or two to tie it all together, the unexpected twist will be a bit more difficult to do, but not impossible.

The Happily Ever After

As you could probably guess, this ending comes wrapped up in a bow. Every loose end is tied up in a positive way (for the good guys, anyway) and you leave your readers with a glimpse of what life is like for the main characters after the timeframe of the rest of the story. It could be simply a few weeks at a wedding that shows all of the main characters’ friends and family being happy together, or even fifty years down the road as the main characters’ watch their grandchildren being happy as they reminisce on their own childhood.

As always, this isn’t a perfectly easy ending to do. It does take the least amount of effort, but can seem like you’re just being a bit lazy and couldn’t think of anything better. This ending is also over-used, so it could be better to try and be more original, or put a spin on the happy ending. Nonetheless, it is still a good way to tie everything up and leave your readers feeling good.

The Not-So-Happily Ever After

Obviously, this is the opposite of the above way to end a story. Instead of everything ending perfectly, try changing the tone to something more sombre. Don’t let Judie survive the car crash. Make Dylan take the job overseas so he leaves everything behind. Shake things up in a sad way to leave your readers with tears in their eyes, even though deep down inside they are happy that you ended it brilliantly.

However, a lot of writers are now using this to avoid over-using the happily ever after ending, so the not-so-happily ever after ending is now a bit of a cliché too. Be cautious if you decide to use this one, especially if you’re trying to keep your story as unique as possible.

It Writes Itself

If you’re really lucky, you’ll reach the ending of your story without a problem. It will just write itself and stop when appropriate. Perhaps after showing the beautiful love story of a couple that enjoyed white water rafting, the man dies in an accident while doing his hobby and the woman throws her engagement ring into the river. That’s an emotional scene with symbolism that doesn’t take much thinking, yet suits it perfectly. Maybe your story could end with “He fired the gun.” or “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”. Sometimes you can be writing and the words just flow until you have a great ending. Just roll with it and enjoy the moment.

You still need to take a precaution with this sort of ending, and that is that it’s imperative to reread your ending later on to ensure it is actually as good as you think it is. Often you can get lost in the moment and it sounds great at the time, but once you look back on it you realise that something else is better, that it should be reworded, or that you completely forgot about a crucial sentence. Take your time to make sure it’s not rushed, and actually has the impact that you originally wanted your perfect ending to have.

The Vague Conclusion

I’ll warn you before you read anymore of this one; the vague conclusion is very hard to pull off. If you try it, you will find that not all of your readers will be satisfied with your ending, which might be something you are trying to avoid. This can be the way to go if you are going to have a sequel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other purposes. Ending a story with vague statements lets the reader imagine what’s happened and they can picture their own complete ending. This can work to your advantage and they can feel happy with how you concluded it, or they might think you are being lazy or lacking inspiration. If your story’s ending doesn’t matter too much, for example whether or not John chooses Lily or Dianna as long as he has learnt how to truly be happy, then go ahead and be vague about the ending to that plot arc.

You could use a cliffhanger that, based on the rest of the story, could have multiple different scenarios that follow. This is a good ending to use if you want readers begging you to write more (in the case of a sequel) or if you want them to be content with the story ending, with their imagination finishing it.

The Just Another Day

This one is a lot less common, but can still be effective if done correctly. Here, you show your characters experiencing just another day in their lives after the climax of the story. There is nothing unusual or dramatic going on, though you show that the characters have changed since the main occurrences of the story and leave hints as to what is going to happen after the ending. It is similar to the vague conclusion, but is much more specific. For example, the vague conclusion would say that Anna had plans to leave the country, but this technique would show Anna with her friends having coffee as she discusses her plans to leave for England in the summer. Less is left for the reader to imagine on their own because you give them more direction.

Of course, this can come off as a boring filler chapter that might not necessarily conclude the story. It is important to make it casual so it is just another day in the characters’ lives, but to also give the readers that sense of fulfilment because loose ends have been tied up.

These endings can be used for a variety of stories, covering drabbles to chaptered, first person to third person, and every single genre. As you’ve probably noticed by reading this, not all of these options are possible for the story you have in mind, but it’s important to consider all possibilities and narrow it down to the best one for your certain story and purposes. Good luck writing your story’s ending!

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