Your story’s ending is the final determination of whether the reader will go on to read more of your books or move on to another writer.
It’s the point the readers have all been waiting for, where the core conflict ends in a final showdown between the hero and villain.
It is also the place where they expect all loose threads tied up, all questions answered, and perhaps a lead into the next book.
There are four things the reader expects from a strong ending:
It Resolves the Core Conflict
The whole book has led up to this moment, and the readers expect a resolution to the problem presented in the beginning.
If we start with one problem but end solving a different one, we can expect the reader not only to be confused but a bit pissed off as well because we didn’t fulfill the promise we used to draw them into the story.
Another problem arises when the book is part of a series, and we want the reader to buy the next one, so we end the book with a cliffhanger.
This is a controversial technique which I have seen used many times.
While it can be highly effective, if the next book is available, it can also be extremely frustrating to the reader.
Nobody likes feeling forced into something or left hanging.
If this is a technique you choose to apply to your series, I implore you to publish the entire series at the once, so your readers don’t have to wait for the next one.
The Protagonist is the Directly Responsible for Its Success or Failure
No matter how many POVs you have, only one person can defeat the antagonist and resolve the core conflict, even if they all work as a team.
This is the person who has the most riding on the outcome of the battle, who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and thus, has the most motivation.
They have been the main focus of the book up until this point, so the ending must be entirely dependent on the actions they take, even if it ends in failure.
The Protagonist Has Changed or Learned Something
Since the story revolves around the protagonist’s flaws making the conflict worse at every turn, readers have come to expect the character to overcome them in the end to succeed.
The challenges they have faced have caused them to learn and grow, changing in ways they never thought possible. All leading up to this moment.
Fear becomes courage. Greed becomes generosity. Revenge becomes forgiveness. And so on.
This change should be directly responsible for turning the protagonist’s previous failures into success, allowing them to overcome the obstacles set before them in the climax, and win the day.
It’s Properly Paced
While it is satisfying for the reader (and the writer) to finally reach the end, if it’s resolved too quickly, the reader won’t have time to enjoy it, and it will feel too easy.
The end needs time to build the tension to its highest point and dramatize the action in such a way it leaves the reader on the edge of their seat waiting to see what happens.
We don’t want it to be too sparse. We need to build it out to about the same size as the beginning.
However, we don’t want to add material just for the sake of reaching a word count, or you’ll leave your readers dying for it to be over instead.
If you find your end is too long, try cutting excess description, info dumping, and unnecessary internalization or dialogue.
You might also try resolving some of your loose ends before the climax or leave them for the next book if it is part of a series.
Your end should be satisfying with high tension and stakes, with just enough detail to make it interesting but not overwhelming.
The more compelling your ending, the more likely the reader will buy your next book.
What else can we do to make our endings stronger?
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.