Oh boy. This. Sometimes it feels like there are two dozen different endings to your story, your baby, but you only get to choose one. It’s something we are constantly thinking about when we approach the end of our stories—and, if we’re being honest, something we are thinking about before we even start the novel. Writers say to end the story “naturally”, let the story take over and flow towards the ending, but sometimes it just isn’t that simple. We find ourselves torn.
Despite our troubles with picking an ending or avoiding the ending because we don’t want it to end, there are a few rules you should follow when writing that finishing chapter.
Always, and I mean always, tie up those loose ends. You don’t want readers left with questions after reading your novel. You might think yourself awfully crafty for being mysterious, but no one likes a mystery they can’t solve. Don’t give your readers a reason to hate your story.
Never leave the conflict unresolved. What’s more disappointing than sugarless cake? An unresolved conflict, that’s what. A reader will feel betrayed by this. They’ve stuck it out through the whole story, fell in love with your characters, and now you give them an ending that does nothing!? Just. No.
Don’t write an unfulfilling ending. I’m talking about those endings where everything was just too easy. The bomb control fell into her hand, the bullet hit its mark exactly, the hero arrived at precisely the last second to stop the king’s assassination. Everything was sunshine and rainbows and kittens. Yay! Note: readers like to be surprised; they don’t like seeing the ending from a mile away. I personally like to think I have the ending all figured out, but then –BAM- something happens that shocks me senseless. That’s the kind of ending you want to go for.
If your ending is good, readers will want to come back for more. They aren’t the strange, elusive creatures you think they are; you’re a reader, too! What would you want in an ending? Think like that and you can never go wrong.