On last month's 'Over to you' post I asked if there was anything you'd like me to make a post about.
New girl on the block said, I'd love to see a post about writing the ending of stories. It's something I struggle with, as I never feel comfortable just tying up all the loose ends. I want to leave room for possibility and ambiguity... as would happen in reality.
However, this can result in a weak ending to a story. I'd like some tips on how to combat this problem and also to hear how other writers feel about this. I hope this seems like a good idea.
She was offered the following advice –
Sharon Boothroyd Endings can be tricky.
I'd say, for the womag market, it has to be satisfactory. Tying up the loose plot threads is a good way to start.
Twist endings are the most difficult. I like to surprise myself! If I can surprise myself, I can (hopefully) surprise the reader.
There's a fine line between misleading the reader and cheating them.
I'd read lots of womag stories to get a feel of what a mag wants.
Penny A I would say that however much planning and revision I seem to do, I always end up re-writing the final paragraphs of every story several times. Eventually, (it's a just a gut feeling, I think) you know when it comes right.
I totally agree with both replies.
As Sharon says, they need to be satisfactory. That's probably the most important thing (in all genres and forms). To achieve that, the ending must come naturally from the plot, not be a cheat such as 'she woke up and found it was all just a dream' or it was the previously unmentioned identical twin brother who dunnit.
The ending also needs to answer the question, problem or issue raised in the story. (If there isn't some form of one of those, it's probably not a story!)
If it's a romance, then the reader will want to know if the couple will live happilly ever after, or at least happilly for now. You don't need their entire life story, but do end with a kiss, understandnding, proposal etc, so readers can imagine their future happy lives.
In a crime story the criminal should be caught. A ghost story might end with the ghost revealing why they're haunting a particular spot, or with them 'moving on'. Actually a character being seen to move on is a good ending for many genres.
Real life does indeed include ambiguity, loose ends and all kinds of possibilities, as New girl says. In a novel it's possible to leave a few threads unresolved as long as the main issue has a satisfactory ending. Short stories generally only have one main plot line, so there's nothing which can be left dangling.
I read somewhere that the reader should know when they've reached the end of the story, even if it's the last word on the page and doesn't state 'The End'. That seems like good advice. Don't leave your reader thinking 'is that it' or 'where's the rest?'
On the other hand, don't carry on and write three more paragraphs once the twist is revealed, the bad guy caught or problem solved.
Endings, as well as being tricky, are important. If the reader reaches the end and loves it then your story is a good one. It's worth taking Penny's advice to rewrite until it's right, and Sharon's to read the magazines and get a feel for what's wanted, in order to achieve that.
Do you agree with all these points?
Do you have any tips or advice to add?