You read a book. You like it. You come to the last page. The last sentence. The last word. And you look up from the page and wonder if there has been some mistake. Maybe you re-read a few pages, thinking you must’ve missed something. Perhaps by the time you get to the last sentence again, the ending would have somehow re-written itself. It hasn’t. Now you’re pissed.
The end of a story can make or break the whole thing. It leaves the biggest impression on the reader because it’s the last thing they see. So getting it right can be nerve-wracking for a writer. Sometimes it’s so nerve-wracking that you get close to the end, and come to a dead stop.
Hello where I am in my novel. Dead. Stop. Facing the terrifying choices of how to tie things up.
Here are all the things I know about ending a story:
- It should tie up all the narrative threads.
- The character must have learned, or accomplished something by the end of their journey.
- The character should have changed in attitude or outlook, or brought about change in their environment, or both.
- It should leave the reader satisfied, or provoked.
- It should leave a hint to the character’s future.
Despite knowing this much (or little) I still can’t seem to end my current novel. I’ve tried staring it down. I’ve tried walking away. I’ve even tried pushing through with writing, but I only have to go back and cut. So frustrating! I keep hoping that all of this wondering about how the story will end means I’ll find that great finish, and no one will ever say: that’s how it ends? and toss the book into a corner. Because that would be the worst ending of all.