TAP021, How to Choose the Right Ending for Your Story
TAP021 - How to Choose the Right Ending for Your Story
As I wrote the script for what I thought was going to be the next episode of the Aurthorpreneur Podcast, I realised that I need to talk about how to choose the right ending for your story before discussing the climactic sequence or the third act. I had planned on discussing story endings in season two but, in the final hour, I decided to bring this subject forward. So, how do you chose the right ending for your story?
In this episode, I will discuss the three things you need to consider to craft a killer ending for your novel.
So, let’s get started.
About this Series
Before I dive into the writing tips, this is the tenth instalment in my series on three-act structure. If you’ve just joined me on this episode then, I will link the previous nine episodes in the show notes below.
- What is Three-Act-Structure?
- Plot and Structure: The Hook
- How to Write a Great Ordinary World Scene
- How to Write the Inciting Incident
- How to Write the First Plot Point Scene
- How to Write the Rising Action Scenes
- How to Write the Midpoint of a Novel
- How to Write the Second Half of the Second Act of a Novel
- How to Write the Dark Night of the Soul Scene of a Novel
Tip Number 1 – Consider Your Story Ending Options
So, what are your options for wrapping up a great story? In terms of endings, there are only three options; either win, lose, or draw. The first two, story ending options are self-explanatory, the hero wins or looses. A story ending in a draw is a moment where the hero and villain reach an impasse. On the surface, the villain appears to have won but at significant cost. Alternatively, the hero wins but pays a high price for this success. It’s almost bittersweet for either party.
The truth is unless you’re writing a romance you do not need to write a happy ending, or a happy for now ending. An ambitious ending is perfectly acceptable. What matters when it comes to story endings is whether it is a satisfying ending for your story. It’s not enough for you as a writer to create a killer story ending that fits into one of the previously mentioned categories. There are a few variables that you need to consider as you choose the right ending for your story.
Tip Number 2 – Think About Whether You’re Writing A Series or A Stand-Alone
Is your story a part of a series or is it a stand-alone? I’m asking you this question because your answer will make a difference to your choice of story ending. A stand-novel is precisely what it sounds like; it’s a story that spans one book. Everything is neatly tied up at the end of the book in a pretty bow. An ambitious ending isn’t going to satisfy readers in this case. But, is a stand-alone novel the best choice for the story you’ve written? What if your story is too large for one book? If your story is too large for one novel, then this is where a series of books is a great option.
Another point to consider is the conflict between your protagonist and antagonist. Before you make big plans for your antagonistic force consider the following questions. Is it realistic for your villain to go down in just one story? Or, is a case of slowly pinning down the four corners of a tent in order to defeat the antagonist? The desire to keep a villain around for a little longer is where a series of books is a great option.
Just a side note, I will go into how to write a series of novels in more depth in a later episode, but for now, I’m going to give you the readers digest version. In a first-in-series book, it’s quite common to have a large cast and multiple subplots. All of these elements create tiny branches that can be explored in later books in the series. In light of this, it’s quite common to have an ending that feels like an impasse, where neither party wins, but the antagonist is stopped in his tracks for now and is left to regroup.
Tip Number 3 – Think About Your Story’s Genre
Before I dive into how a genre is an indication of reader expectation, I want to quickly define how I intend on using the word ‘genre.’ The way I use the term genre is ‘a place on the bookshelf or in terms of an online store, the category where the reader will find your book.’ So, Why is this definition so important? Your book’s genre will immediately tell a reader whether they will like your story, or not. This is especially true of the romance genre. For some reason, romance readers are aware of the tropes that fill the pages of a romance novel. I believe this awareness is because they are considered ‘whale-readers’ and consume more novels than the average reader.
This reader awareness doesn’t mean you should use genre like a strict set of rules. Genre tropes and expectations are more like guidelines. You don’t necessarily have to tick all of the genre trope boxes. As a writer, it’s your job to do a little research and figure out which tropes are a ‘must-have’ and the ones that are a ‘nice to have.’ If you do choose to rock the boat with your genre, I would advise against this in your first few novels. Wait until you have a fan-base that will read everything you write, then craft a story with a genre-busting ending.
All of this boils down to knowing your audience. If you’re writing a romance and you decide to give your main characters a Romeo and Juliet style ending, then you need to understand that you’re writing a tragedy, and not a romance; this is the exception to the genre-busting ending. In most other genres you can get away with a little ambiguity or something less than happy.
Keeping the Villain Around
In light of this, what if you want to keep your villain around for the series? If so, then consider this next question. How can you meet the reader’s expectation, give them a satisfying ending, but keep the antagonist around to continue the battle on in the series?
If you do choose to keep the villain around, eventually the antagonist has to get what they deserve. They need to be overcome at some point in the series otherwise the reader will be disappointed. No one wants to read a series where the villain wins because its a bad guy constantly triumphing and never failing or experiencing the consequences for their actions. This whole notion of good overcoming evil, I know it’s quite an extreme concept, but a reader will innately expect good to win out over evil. You need to deliver that in a story, however, nothing is stopping you from getting creative about this. The main point is the villain needs to experience real-world consequences for their actions, in order to deliver a satisfying ending to a series arc.
A Quick Recap
The three points you need to consider as you choose the right ending for your story are as follows:
- The type of story ending that’s best for your book,
- Whether your story is a part of a series or is a stand-alone,
- And, your story’s genre and reader expectations.
Are you struggling to craft the perfect ending for your story? I want to hear from you. Let me know in the comments where you’re struggling and the steps you’re going to take to improve your story.
Thank you for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode of The Authorpreneur Podcast.
I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.