How to write the perfect story ending?
Endings are very important. If you get the ending wrong all hell can break loose. You can end up trending on Twitter and then find yourself on the business end of a re-writing petition signed by millions of angry fans who just want to be petty. That’s right. I am talking about what you think I’m talking about. Also yes, it still hurts.
The Game of Thrones finale was an absolute assault that a story ending could be and trust me I have seen the How I Met Your Mother ending. Something is infuriating about mismanaged endings and especially when the majority of it is pretty good. You might be wondering why so many great plot lines and story arcs get trashed in the end?
Is writing a story to its perfect ending actually that hard?
It kinda is.
Having made it to the ending means that as a reader you are now emotionally invested and for the writer that means they are walking on eggshells. This is especially the case when writing a series where the momentum is being built up over several books.
But the key ingredient of failed endings is not entirely how they tricky they are. It is because so many writers are rushing to end and because they fail to understand the charterer’s journey.
Here are a few helpful tips on ending your story so that the memes about your story’s ending don’t end up being more entertaining than the actual ending.
The first and most obvious tip is to stick to the logic established throughout the story. The ending has to be unexpected and the readers should be shocked to some extent but not to a point where all that they have learned throughout the book about the characters and the events leading up becomes redundant.
Endings that make the reader feel duped are not what you need, but endings that utilize all the elements of the story and still result in a response of awe are the ultimate goal. The best example of this is Arya Stark pulling the plug on the Night King. Although I loved that it was her, not John Snow (fight me!). I couldn’t get over the fact that the Night King touching her is of no consequence whereas Bran’s got a hand-print of him that he gets followed because of and a previous season pretty much ended with a baby turning into a wight at the Night’s King’s touch. Alas.
I can whine about this all day.
As a writer, you get to be the god of your fictional universe. You make the rules and the rules can be anything but once you have established the rules, you can’t go back on them.
The endings that the readers love the most are the ones that uncover some type of mystery in the very end and it is the last thing you could have expected. A pretty great example of this would be Dan, the Gossip Girl.
He is a writer. He does have all that free time on his hands from the lack of social life to run a blog that everyone in New York is familiar with. He is obsessed with both Serena and Blair and does end up being on the website more often than you’d expect from someone with his ‘social standing’. It makes a whole lot of sense and you never could’ve guessed it was him.
The job of a great writer is to leave bread crumbs, to trust that the reader would follow through but while they argue over Georgina, Eric and Nate (REally, Nate?), the plot should have a Dan in the mix there somewhere, ready for the unravelling.
A cliffhanger is the most popular way to end a book series. It is by the far the most effective way to leave the reader wanting more. They are the type of endings where a significant amount of work is required but you cannot go wrong. This is because as a writer you can not only instill all the elements of a surprise but can always work it in if you later figure out a grand loophole that needs tending. The Harry Potter series was so successful mainly because of how every book ended with a cliffhanger and you just had to find out what would happen next.
The best, in my opinion, was how Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ended. You get an epic battle between Harry and Voldemort, Cedric dies which despite the fatality of the games comes as a true shock and Pettigrew re-appears to help Voldemort come back at last in physical form all at the very end. You can’t help but wonder where it goes from here?
Another great way to write a story ending is to make the readers think that a mystery has been solved when only a part of it has. Layering the mystery and then spreading out can not only help you build a stronger climax, it creates credibility. The reader has respect for the writer that can fool them twice.
We were liars is a great example of this because the memories of Cadence turn out to be a lot more misleading than the reader expects, and by the end of the book, you realize. *Spoiler Alert* Cadence remembers that Golden Retrievers die in the fire and as a reader, you are not just shocked but devastated. Not long after that, she remembers how the house burns down and how the Liars all died in the fire she started and that is why none of them keeps in touch anymore and why she only sees them when she returns for the summer as hallucinations. The entire belief system of the story starts to dwindle and you realize how much of it isn’t real.
Check out the We were liars review here.
What is your favourite story ending of all time? Let me know in the comments below.