Many authors know, before they write the first sentence, how their story will end. That’s how important story endings are.
That is a common practice, and possibly necessary for mysteries. As a mystery writer, you must work your way toward the climax of the story, dropping clues and maybe red herrings to keep the reader engaged. To do that well, you have to know where you are going.
But, whatever genre you write, in the end you want your reader to believe it was worth the time they spent with your book.
It’s been said that convoluted story endings are often the reason for a rejection. An editor might take a liking and suggest a way to fix it — or, he might throw it in the slush pile.
So, for your consideration, here are a few suggestions for writing satisfying endings.
Avoid the weird twist. Your protagonist should not turn out to be the villain. That will leave your reader shaken and robs them of closure. If you have a twist at the end make sure it’s logical.
Good wins/bad loses makes a satisfying ending. How that comes about and how the protagonist is changed by what he has endured to make it happen, is your story to tell. And the antagonist needs to get what’s coming to him.
Avoid cliché endings. Perry Mason tricks someone on the witness stand into confessing to the murder. The villain gets the upper hand and uses this time to brag about how he did it. Perry did this successfully 70-80 times. The second scenario is a favorite in television plays. If your antagonist is going to give it up, use the familiar mantra: “Show, don’t tell.”
Make the ending believable. Your protagonist can’t suddenly jump out of a phone booth with a big S on his chest unless he’s been mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper from the beginning.
Take care of loose ends. It’s not unusual for writers to want to end Book 1 with a cliff hanger to inspire folks to buy Book 2. As a reader let me say, please don’t do that.
Try an open ending. Series book deals are common nowadays, but readers feel manipulated when the story doesn’t end at all and they must wait 6 months to 2 years for the next book to find out what happened in the last book. This is where an open ending can be useful. Let the reader know that things are good and settled for now, but a piece of unfinished business makes the future questionable. Make the draw for your next book the fact that the reader loves your characters.
Don’t insult your readers’ intelligence by stating the obvious. A hint is all that’s necessary. No need to outline the rest of your protagonist’s life. When the story is done, stop.
Hopefully, by the end of your story, your reader has connected with your protagonist emotionally. She cares about what happens to him. How will she feel if boy doesn’t get girl? Or if he fails in his quest?
The ending is your reader’s last impression. Make it satisfying.