NaNoWriMo Special: "The End" Is Nigh

WritersdontcryThe end. We’re not talking about the climax or the resolution here, we’re talking about those last few lines. The last words your reader reads. The last sentences an editor sees. We’re talking about not needing to say “the end” because it feels right and natural. We’re talking about the difference between leaving your readers in state of awe . . . and meh.Theend

First lines are important, because they hook your reader. And because of that, authors obsess over them. But last lines are almost equally important. Like the last notes of a glass of wine—they leave a strong taste in your mouth. So if your ending falls flat, it can dampen the enjoyment and appreciation of the whole. On the other hand, if the last lines of your book are resonant, they can amplify reader appreciation tenfold.

So how do you find the perfect ending for your story? There is no one answer for every story. The best endings are those that suit the work in question. That said, here are a couple of tips on how to work four of the most common kinds of endings.

The Cliffhanger

JANE: Gee willikers, I’m so glad we got away from that pack of angry red balloons!
DICK: By golly, it was a close call! Lucky for us, we had our Swiss Army knives!
JANE: The way they swarmed all over Ginger and Roger . . . I . . . I can still hear their screams!
DICK: There, there, Jane. Come here. [DICK takes JANE’s knife, gently puts both knives down] It’s all over now. . .
[DICK puts an arm around JANE, they walk off stage. Ominous music starts again. RED BALLOON drifts after them, its string dragging on the ground. Fade to black]

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Comments (3)

Sue: Thanks so much for taking the time to write! It means a lot to me. I'm glad you find them helpful, and that your novel writing class is going well. Best of luck with your writing!

Dan: Thank you, Dan! And there's nothing wrong with reading a series you love over and over again (or if there is... you know. About not wanting to be right and such.) The Dark Tower is a classic!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Tuesday November 29, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Great article! When you say "return to framing device," I think, "The Dark Tower." Super transparent? Yup! But I must have read that series about ten times!

Posted by: Dan Ciano | Tuesday November 29, 2011 at 5:47 AM

Susan: I must tell you that I have been following your posts since August 1 and have shared them with another friend who is not so tech-savvy. My friend and I recently ventured to take our first novel writing class and are pleased to say that our teacher likes our writing. Your posts have been SO VERY HELPFUL and inciteful that I can't bear to be without them! Keep up the good work -- you have lots of followers out there even if you don't hear from them. Thank you so much!

Posted by: Sue Haynes | Monday November 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM

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