You’re at the end of your story. Don’t be afraid. You can do this. After spending so much time trying to perfect and complete a magical experience for your reader, it can be daunting to come to the end. You don’t want to disappoint anyone - including yourself. There are many different ways you can conclude your story. It just depends on the goal and purpose of what you are creating for your audience. I did a little research, and here is some advice for us.
Keep Them In The Loop
One way of ending your story is to finish with a definite, no-questions-unanswered scene. You let the readers know what happened to the characters - did they survive? did they fall in love and get married? Everything is resolved and the audience does not have to wonder what happened or use their imagination to fill in any gaps. One of my favorites that come to mind is Harry Potter. We see that everyone coupled off the way they were supposed to, and they are sending their kids to Hogwarts now. Harry even named his son after the two most important role models in his life. Here come the feelings.
Sometimes this style of ending is used when the story is very action based. If there is a ton of violence and drama, it’s nice to know if the lead character you’ve been rooting for made it out alive.
You could even tell them from the very beginning. Some stories start at the ending. They start with an intense scene leaving you wondering how the story made it there, and then little by little take you on an adventure to show you how everything unraveled.
BOOM! What? That changes everything! You can have a little fun and shake things up a bit. You have the readers believing that the main guy they’ve been following around all this time is heroic and perfect and saving cats from trees, but no. He’s actually the murderer.
Or maybe the main character has been dead the entire time? OR what if he’s been dreaming this whole time? There are so many different ways to surprise the audience.
Of course, be ready for a lot of mixed feelings if you end a story this way. Some people will appreciate it. It will make them rethink everything and maybe even inspire a creative project. They can use their imagination to understand the ending.
Some readers get frustrated with endings like this. You’ve tugged on their sleeve and led them through this story, and now you are changing everything. Either way, they will remember you, and that means there’s a good chance they will continue to read your work.
What A Mystery…
There’s always the option to leave your audience on the edge. They have to imagine how the story ends themselves. They get to create the finish that you started.
This is used when the story has a realistic, introverted plot. Many struggles are internal. If the problem has been a soul-searching crisis or a family issue, it makes sense that the story could end in many directions. If it feels right to complete a story without a definite resolution, use this.
Many quiet stories and novels leave us with a feeling of connection even if we’re not sure how exactly it ended. We’re part of something bigger just by reading it and observing the inner workings of human nature.
If your readers close your book or read the last line of your short story and sit and ponder the meaning of life or simply reflect on how the book makes them feel and how it changed them, they will be satisfied.
Novelists leave their readers wanting more by using this when they are writing a series and want the audience to wonder what is going to happen next. Sometimes using an implied ending - it mostly likely ended this way but it COULD be another way - can also drive curious minds to pick up the sequel.
As always, keep writing! Don’t forget to submit your short stories and poetry to Chantwood Magazine. We can’t wait to read your work.