A book’s ending is just as essential as its beginning.
Any writing teacher or editor will tell you that your book should be able to grab people’s attention from page one.
The first few pages are crucial. A good opening is the key to selling your book to readers. Do they like the characters they are being introduced to? Is your writing style engaging enough for them to keep reading your book? Questions like this should be answered right at the very beginning.
Don’t know where to start writing? Check out this Leaders Press blog post on how to begin your book.
There are tons of good books and media that have been let down by bad endings. Remember the Game of Thrones series? Such an impressive and remarkable show, sadly ruined by a disappointing last season
Everyone vividly remembers that bad ending. It was so obviously rushed. Characters were acting so very unlike their usual selves, with most of their original motivations thrown by the wayside.
The show ran for nearly a decade. But now, hardly anyone talks about it anymore.
The same goes for books.
Aside from an appealing hook and a compelling plot, one of the things that will make your readers want to read more is a satisfying ending. It’s what ties the whole story together. It has the power to compel them to reread your work over and over again. Readers are likely to buy your next book if they liked your ending.
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What do people expect from an ending of book?
1. Resolution of plot threads
There should be a conclusion to the story. Some fulfilled character arcs or some sort of resolution that ties the story together in a neat package. Your readers have spent hours of their time reading your work and being emotionally invested in your characters. It’s only proper that you give them a sense of fulfillment when they get to your book’s end.
2. Logical conclusion of events
Let’s go back to our Game of Thrones example. Firstly, a character, Bran Stark, has repeatedly mentioned that he can’t become a lord over any castle because he has become the Three-Eyed-Raven (a sort of mystical seer figure that he is introduced to by the ending of Book 4).
Then by the time the final episode rolls around, Bran is just there willingly accepting the position of king without much ado. So now he’s just fine with being king? It doesn’t make sense for the character, it doesn’t make sense for the overall story.
3. No clichés
Endings that make characters live “happily ever after” are cute and all. But it’s been done countless times before. Also, try to avoid “deus ex machina” endings where a certain thing or event comes out from nowhere and saves the day. An ending shouldn’t be so obviously predictable.
4. Answers to your book’s central question
Who is the mystery killer? Will the star-crossed lovers end up together? Can the hero finally defeat the evil monster that is plaguing his village?
All stories have a question that needs to be answered. This is what drives the plot. It is what creates tension and conflict, what pushes the characters to take action.
The ending of a book should be answering this question This is where you should pull out all the stops
Ending of book – different types
All books must come to an end. If your reader has stuck around with you until the very end of your book, then congratulations! You can convince a reader to read your next book with an ending that is good enough.
In so many ways can the last chapter of your book be more important than the first. The ending is the place where you, as an author, would want to make a lasting impression to your readers.
With that said, here are some different types of endings that you can employ in your book:
I. Resolved ending
A resolved ending leaves no room for any plot points to continue. Also known as a “classical” ending, this kind of ending is one of the most common in literature. Fairy tales, children’s books, and a majority of young adult fiction usually end in the classical way.
With the resolved ending, the plot- and subplots, if there are any- are brought to a definite conclusion. There are no loose ends, no questions left unanswered, no more lingering tension.
II. Unresolved ending
An unresolved ending is exactly what its name suggests. Instead of providing answers, the unresolved ending leaves the reader with even more questions. Everything is ambiguous. Has the bad guy been defeated? What happens next? Is the battle really over?
A thriller usually ends in an unresolved ending (or a cliffhanger, as some people would call it). Stories that are part of a series- the Harry Potter books, for example- usually employ this kind of ending to motivate people to grab the next installment.
III. Twist ending
Lots of people love twist endings. These endings always try to catch people off guard. Most readers wouldn’t be able to see them coming. These unexpected endings can be extremely subtle, or they can completely change the tone of the story altogether.
But using a twist ending comes with a lot of risk. Done without finesse, a twist ending might just end up as a deus ex machina (i.e. a plot device that magically solves all the problems in the book). It would feel too strange, abrupt, and unnatural for the story’s plot.
Most importantly, if you’re going to use a twist ending in your book, leave enough small details throughout the text so that it will feel justified. Leaving clues where the reader least expects it makes for a good twist ending.
IV. Tied Ending
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude ends with a hurricane. Everything is destroyed- the whole Buendia clan is killed off, and the town of Macondo which the Buendia patriarch founded is wiped out entirely. Everything is back to where they started- from nothing.
This is what a tied ending is. The plot ends where it begins, with the entirety of the story coming full circle. This is the kind of ending that is commonplace to a lot of world mythologies and folklore. Books that explore the cyclical nature of time such as the aforementioned One Hundred Years of Solitude, also use tied endings a lot.
V. Expanded Ending
Also called an “epilogue,” the expanded ending extends the narrative past the main story. For example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the Harry Potter series, ends with a scene that takes place decades after the main events in the book. In that epilogue, Harry and gang are shown sending off their own kids to Hogwarts, while Harry’s son Albus Severus expresses his worry that he might get sorted into Slytherin once he gets into Hogwarts.
Authors use an expanded ending to tie up loose ends and answer whatever questions that might still be left unanswered by the end of the story. It’s like a reward for the reader, to show them what fate has in store for the characters that they have grown to love.
Ending of book that works – some tips you should know
1. Know what your ending is before you start writing
Planning for your book’s ending should come early on in the writing process. When you start writing your book, it’s best if you know how your story will end. This is not a rule set in stone. However, writing is always easier when you have a clear picture of what your character is working up to. Having the end in mind makes the whole process smoother.
2. Play around with different endings
But don’t get too attached to your ending either. Never be afraid to try different endings. Jump in and revise your ending if you want. Your character’s journey can be resolved in so many different ways- try to see which one fits your narrative the best.
3. Make sure that your ending evokes some kind of emotion
Your reader should feel something… anything. Whether it be happiness, dejection, sorrow, excitement- an ending must be able to draw emotion from a reader. Emotions are what makes a story stick to your mind.
4. Don’t drag on for too long past the natural ending of book
Too much explaining results to boring endings. Your readers can figure stuff out on their own- there’s no need to explain the hows and whys of every single event that happened in your book’s preceding chapters. Philosophize too much and your story will drag on for far longer than it needs too.
There’s a saying that goes: “First impressions, last.” When it comes to book writing, last impressions matter a lot too!
No matter how you decide to end your book, always make sure that your readers will close the book cover feeling satisfied about the story that they had just read.
How to tell if you have written an awesome ending of book
Aside from the obvious answer, which is to ask other people to read your book and let you know their thoughts on how it ends, there are various different ways in which you can tell how you’ve got a great ending on your hands.
Your main character is still there
The main character is the focal point of the story. This is the person that your readers will spend the most time with. In addition, it is understandable that readers will get attached. Unless you have a very creative reason to do so, killing off the MC or having them not be around during the climax can be a bad idea.
There’s no new stuff in the ending of book
Unless you have deliberately written a cliffhanger, introducing new concepts, new characters, or new story points during the ending is a big no-no. There’s just not enough time to explain why these new stuff are there!
Characters have evolved
There are two types of characters in literature: round characters and flat characters. Flat characters are two-dimensional and uncomplicated. They do not change throughout the course of a story.
In direct contrast to flat characters are round characters. Round characters undergo development throughout a book. They are complex and have more emotional depth. Main characters should be round.
By the end of the book, your characters should have evolved to beyond what they were during the first chapter. There should be a marked difference from their past selves- their motivations might have changed, or they have started to approach the world a little differently from how they used to. Whatever it is, the ending should be able to showcase how exactly these characters have changed.
Ending of book – learning from others
Writers should be avid readers first.
Why? Because reading IS an essential part of the writing process. It’s one of the best ways we can hone our craft. Through reading other authors’ works can we learn what to do and what not to do in our own writing. Reading improves our vocabulary, expands our imagination, and inspires us to be better writers.
So what better way to learn how to write good endings than to read and experience them yourself?
Take a gander at this list of some of our favorite book endings (and yes, in case it’s not obvious, there will be spoilers!):
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
This is one of those books where there are no twist endings or cliffhangers… We know exactly what will happen to Charlie, the main character, halfway through the book. We know that that genius intellect of his is just temporary. He will soon regress back to his old state, as a shy man with an IQ of 68 who can barely take care of himself.
Despite this fact, we still get emotionally shocked when the inevitable finally does happen. Keyes has written the book from the point-of-view of Charlie himself. So it’s as if we’re experiencing his bittersweet journey to his sad fate alongside him.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
“But now I must sleep.”
Certainly, Atonement’s last line is probably one of the most haunting closing lines in fiction. Our narrator is a novelist herself. Briony Tallis gives us her version of events that happened in her history that centered primarily around her sister and her sister’s lover Robbie. As it so happens, Briony once mistakenly accused Robbie of raping her cousin, thus landing him in jail.
Haunted by what she has done, she tried to ask forgiveness from both Robbie (who was released from jail and drafted into war) and her sister. We learn that the two has been living together for a few years in the meanwhile.
Sounds like a happy ending right? But it’s not. Briony is an unreliable narrator. The reunion with her sister and Robbie never happened, and she never did got a chance to ask for forgiveness from them.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
If given a chance, would you want to live forever? Main character Winnie Foster faced this question at the end of the book after her adventures with the Tucks, a family of immortals she met in the woods. Here was a family she was very fond of. as well as a boy who seemed to have a crush on her. If she wills it to, she can live forever with them.
But alas, Winnie chose not to drink the magical spring water of immortality. She grew up, started a family, and lived like the rest of us mortals. But it was probably all for the best.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Pi Patel’s boat sank on a journey to North America. He survived, floating around on a lifeboat, with only a ragtag group of animals for company. Or is that what really happened?
Life of Pi tells a story about survival, of being able to fight for your life through some seemingly improbable odds. As Pi tells the writer who was interviewing him, the animals later killed one another after some time. The only survivor in the group was himself and a Bengal Tiger that he named as Richard Parker.
The book’s ending hints at the real events. There were no animals. Pi spent those 227 days with other human survivors. He was too horrified at what his fellow survivors had done at the height of their desperation, that he replaced them with animals in his own version of events.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The ending of a book doesn’t always have to be a twist ending or a cliffhanger to be great. One Hundred Years of Solitude, a sprawling novel by famed magic realist author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is a clear example of that fact.
The book tells the story of the Buendia family. It traces the events that plagued multiple generations of the clan for a century, as well as the stories of the people that make up the family.
The patriarch of the clan founded a town called Macondo in the middle of a swamp. Despite the location, the town flourished and prospered. But the novel ends all of this by wiping the town and the last of the Buendias through a hurricane. Though it might sound like an abrupt ending, it fits perfectly with the book’s theme of mystical tragedy and human isolation.
There you have it! These are some truly great book endings that can guide you in your own writing. In conclusion, you should try to learn from them and try to imitate the way they are constructed. Who knows, maybe someday your book will be featured on a list like this