With that in mind I’ve developed four essential ingredients for a good ending. Kind of an “ending checklist”. Each ending I write, I measure by this checklist. I hope you find it helpful also.
1)Is it satisfying? All novels need a satisfying ending. No matter if you’re writing a mystery, romance, historical, etc. the ending needs to be satisfying. Not necessarily happy, (unless genre requirements specify this) but satisfying. The reader has to be okay with how things turn out, even if they turn out really really bad, as in Titanic, for example. Although we would have liked the characters to live happily ever after, we accept the fact that the heroine will live out her life to the fullest, even though it won’t be with the hero.
2)Does it seem natural? Ever read a novel where it seemed like the author just got tired of the story and decided to end it two pages later? An ending must seem naturally grown. If it doesn’t evolve, we won’t believe it. The characters have to have some kind of redemption or there has to be a valid reason for lack thereof. Often my endings get tweaked quite a bit while editing, to make them more believable and less contrived.
3)Does it end with a bang or a sigh-worthy last line? Every good ending ends with a great last line. A line that moves the reader in some way. While the first line in your novel should intrigue, the last line should leave a satisfying, yet lasting impression.
4)Does it tie up loose ends? Sometimes authors have one or two mini endings, to tie up subplots before the final ending. However you chose to do it, the ending to a stand-alone novel shouldn’t leave the readers wondering “What happened to that character? Did they drop off the face of the earth?” Although the novel shouldn’t seem contrived there should be some closure and answers to questions you’ve posed.
For further research, here are some books that show these points well. Check them out and see how a great ending can make a great novel even better!
1) Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
2) The Irish Healer by Nancy Herriman
3) The Rogue’s Redemption by Ruth Axtell Morren
The four ingredients of an ending are:
*Final tie up
With these four weapons you’ll be sure to write an ending that shoots straight for your reader’s heart.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy writing endings? Any tips to share? What’s the best ending you’ve read in 2011?