The 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.
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.
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]