Thanks to everyone who played the Continue This Story game last week! It was fun. If you missed it or still want to comment/play, click HERE.
Two weeks ago I posted about the importance of having a hook or intriguing beginning as the first line of a novel. But what about the ENDING of your story? This line (or lines) is also important. It is the last thing a reader reads, and will be what stays in his/her mind--or not--after the book has been put down. And if an ending is satisfying, a reader is more likely to pick up other books by the same author. The best end lines leave people with a sense of satisfaction, and sometimes even smiles on their faces.
So it's crucial to have an ending that satisfies and feels complete.
How do we as writers obtain this satisfying ending? Here are some ideas:
1. A satisfying and complete ending doesn't necessarily mean everything ends happily.
2. An ending needs to tie up loose plot threads--without over-explaining.
3. Even with the first book in a series, the plot should be/feel tidied up and complete.
4. The rhythm and wording of a book's final lines sound different. Readers should not turn the page and be surprised they've already reached the end of the book.
5. Try not to wax too poetical at the end, or give a lot of lush description. It's not a good time for readers to tune out and have their eyes glaze over.
6. Don't moralize or give in to the urge to insert your opinion about the story.
7. Avoid cliché endings: riding off into the sunset, sweeping into a passionate kiss, etc.
8. End on a tone that is consistent with your genre/story; stay dark, lighthearted, etc.
9. Your character should change by the end; they must grow from their journey.
10. Don't be longwinded, and don't go on and on after everything is settled.
11. Be sure your ending sentence is memorable, not trite or blah.
12. Beware of ending on a passive or weak note by using weak verbs, structures, or ideas.
13. Ask your critique buddies if your ending lines are satisfying and sound complete.
14. A lot of times the ending line is set apart by itself, having its own paragraph.
15. Be aware that some genres typically end a certain way: romances almost always end happily, dystopian or sci-fi novels typically end not-quite-so-happily.
1. Chapter ending lines also sound different and more "final" in rhythm and wording.
2. Chapter endings should make people turn pages and stay up late to keep reading.
3. Most of your chapters should end mid-action or mid-scene rather than on a restful note at the end of the character's day, or when things have been wrapped up.
4. Not ALL chapters have to end on a gripping page-turner note; variety is good.
5. A "page-turner" moment doesn't have to be earthshaking, but it should contain enough tension, conflict, and interest for the reader to be curious about what happens next.
What is your favorite ending line from a book?
Which do you think is more important: a strong beginning line or a strong ending line?
Are you a fan of happy endings--do the books you read have to end happily for you to like them totally?