Monday, June 21, 2010

What Do You Want From a Story Ending?

Now that I’m getting close to writing the ending of my first draft, doubts are starting to get in the way of my writing. The ending is tricky. What do I want it to do?

1. Achieve something significant for the main character. As one of my MG readers pointed out, “The mystery should be solved.” Even if there isn’t a mystery, feelings of suspense and tension need to be released. Loose ends need to be wrapped up.

2. Make sense. The solution shouldn’t come entirely out of the blue. For me, this means the main character needs to have a key role in resolving the problem.

3. Include something unexpected. Even though I want the ending to follow logically from previous story events, I don’t want it to be predictable.

4. Leave the reader feeling positive. I don’t think MG readers like stories that end with too many unresolved issues. Readers in this age group like to have something good happen to the main character at the end.

What do you want from your ending?


  1. Hi Andrea: I totally agree with #4, but "something good" can take a lot of different forms. I like the ending to be fair. For instance, Diary of a Wimpy Kid ends with Rowley, not Greg, voted Funniest Kid in school. And that's totally awesome. It's justice, but it's also good for Greg if he'd learn to appreciate Rowley more. So a little comeuppance for the characters at the end is nice, but the constructive kind of comeuppance, if that makes sense. :)

  2. Great list! I'd add that while I like having a sense of closure at the end of a story, I also like feeling that life will continue for the characters (even if I won't be around to see it). So I guess I like endings that invite me to think about the characters even after the story is over.

  3. I always like when a story ends with some kind of unexpected, but still satisfying conclusion. I think all your points are key!

  4. I'm working on my ending too. I love your list because these are some of the things that I'm looking to do as well.

    But I feel you on agonizing over it. My seems to be changing on a daily basis. But I do feel that once you get that ending *right*, you'll know it.

    Good luck!

  5. Kate, I love your point about fairness. And Anna, the sense that life will continue for the characters is something I'd like for my story too.

    Jody and Karen, thanks for your encouragement. I rely a lot on my feelings as I write, so I hope I'll know it when I get the ending right (of course that may not happen until after some revision).

  6. I like this list! For me the unexpected is always satisfing. And I like there to be some hope in the ending. I'm still a sucker for happy endings!


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