Peggy Bechko: Six Don’ts When Ending Your Story

by Peggy Bechko

You’ve written a great story and now you’re coming to the end; time to wrap it up, keep it tight and really give it some punch. Ending the story can be harder than many other aspects of writing it because there are traps we writers tend to fall into. So here are a few to keep your sharp writer’s eye out for.

happy-endings

  1. Now is not the time to introduce new characters or heaven’s forbid a new subplot. Anything new cropping up at this point should have been foreshadowed long before, even if it was a subtle and mysterious reference.
  2. Don’t think your ending should be some grand philosophizing on your part, that now is the time to muse about the universe or give some lengthy explanation of what has gone before. Boring. Now is the time to keep description tight and maximize the conflict of your story and the action surrounding it. If you’ve written well you’ve planted all the little bombs along the way. Now’s the time to let ‘er rip.
  3. Avoid gimmicks. Now is not the time to do a quick twist and a trick ending that’s quirky. Unless you’re desperate for that final twist and have laid the ground work for it don’t just toss it into the writing mix like a wrench in a clothes dryer.  It’ll sound just as ‘clunky’. Your reader, whether editor, producer agent or book reader has stuck with you because you’ve engaged him or her. Don’t throw in something so out of context that he or she resolves never to read your work again.
  4. Don’t pass up the opportunity to tie up loose ends you know every reader is going to want to have resolved. Consider every question you so carefully planted along the way and address them in some fashion; even if just to let them know it is something that will be left hanging.
  5. The end of the story is not the time to suddenly change your voice or your attitude or have a character suddenly do something totally in opposition to everything else that character has done previously. Unless you foreshadowed it all that will do is make the ending sound contrived and slapped on – like you couldn’t figure out how to end your story.
  6. Don’t think you can slip past resolving the central conflict of your tale. Happily ever after isn’t necessary, but do try to have the conclusion be somehow a positive. And if your hero has been doing a balancing act between good guy and bad guy give him a way to redeem himself. Readers mostly want to feel uplifted at the end of a book or a movie. Rarely does a totally dark ending work out well.

That’s it. My suggestions for the day. Hopefully it’s some food for thought when you’re working on that spectacular ending and you’ll bring home a really strong closer.

One thought on “Peggy Bechko: Six Don’ts When Ending Your Story

  1. Curious. Are all these “DO’S and DON’TS” necessary? We spend our lives (at least some of us) making up stories about this and that, and the best ones seem to just flow from the dark nights of our imaginations. As a child, escaping the hell of drunken violence, I simply snuck out at night, and walked the dark streets of St. Louis with my imaginary companions at my side. A seven year old made older by imagination alone, peeking into windows to share the warmth of other children being tucked in bed with a loving kiss goodnight, fearing what lies ahead when the drunk returns home. Hiding my little stories written on scraps of paper, waiting someday to make them stories. “DO’S and DON’TS”? No way — only truths. gs

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