There are four parts of effective storytelling: the introduction, body, climax, and the ending. In this article we’ll be talking about the fourth part; the ending. This is where your major plot points, twists, and whatever other unique story devices will be used to end the story—hopefully in a satisfying way for the reader.
When writing an ending, you must make sure that not only does it make sense, but it’s also compelling so the readers enjoy it and will want to continue to read your writing in the future. This is easier said than done, of course, but there are blueprints and guidelines you can use. Today, we’re going over four basic tips to help create a great ending. So, let’s dive into it.
1. Plan For Your Ending
This should be obvious, but many writers tend to wing it and come up with an ending on the fly. Unfortunately—and you can ask Stephen King fans about this—that’s not always a wise move. Without a plan there’s a lot of trouble you could find yourself in. If you come up with an ending on the spot, you might find yourself working around plot holes or writing yourself into a corner you can’t get out of.
I’m not saying all of your endings must have a full outline written beforehand, but you should at least have an idea how the story will end. You want your story plot to be as accurate as possible. This means you need an ending mapped out enough so everything leading up to that point will make sense. Don’t wing your ending unless you’re prepared to do a lot of rewriting later on.
2. Your Main Character Has To Be A Catalyst
Make sure your main character is the lead and is the reason the story is moving forward. This way, as the story progresses and reaches its conclusion, the ending feels real and not forced from everything that’s happened so far in the story. What I mean by this is that your main character should be the Sun and the story is the Earth rotating around it.
Your protagonist is the one who is supposed to be leading the action. He/she should emerge as the primary catalyst in the fourth part of your story. You don’t want your main character sitting around watching the events unfold. Too many writers have the main character being the one who gets rescued in the end. That’s crap! You rarely see stories like that getting published. Some random dude isn’t saving Superman from getting beaten up by Doomsday. If he was, there wouldn’t be any point in having Superman in the story at all. It would just be the adventures of Joe, the random dude who saved the day.
3. The Characters Grow Internally
If there’s no growth going on in your characters throughout the story, by the time you get to the ending everything will feel flat. There needs to be resolution for your characters and some sort of character growth arc. If they stay the same throughout the entire story, the ending won’t be very fulfilling for the reader.
One of the reasons we read stories is to see how the characters change throughout the story. Even if their growth is bad, (they start off good and turn evil like Darth Vader) they’re still different by the end of the story. Here’s a great video of Kurt Vonnegut explaining the various shapes stories can take. This can also apply to your characters and the different ways they grow.
4. Better Characters Emerge By The End
By the end of the story your character should be better than what they were at the beginning (assuming you’re going with the typical hero arc). That could mean they succeed where they’ve had failed in the past or reached a goal they have set previously. You don’t have to go this route depending on the story you’re writing, but this is typically the story style that the majority of readers gravitate towards. You don’t necessarily need a happy ending, but you want a character who emerges as being better than they were at the start.
Seeing the “hero” become a better person by the end of the story helps the reader connect and feel for your characters. This positive growth helps the readers form an emotional bond and investment with your hero, and will have them rooting for the character to succeed. Of course, you can have the character fail or become a worse person by the end, but this might lead to your book being thrown across the room. Remember, we read to escape the depressing nature of the real world. We don’t want to see our heroes degrade into total bastards like we see so often in real life. That’s not fun for anyone.
If you’re looking for more great articles on the writing process, check out a few of these!