How to Write Unforgettable Endings

How to write endings


Five Rules for Choosing an Ending:

1-An ending should seem inevitable without seeming predictable

2-An ending should be satisfying to the reader, that is, it makes sense.

3-An ending should be unforgettable.

4-An ending is not about what happens, but how it happens. Loose ends should be resolved in a meaningful way.

5-The ending should illuminate the context and characters in the story.

How to Choose an Ending:

Writers spend hours if not days agonizing over how to end a novel, when basically, there are only 5 possible endings! This is based on your protagonist being happy, unhappy or have changed what he or she wanted or didn’t want.

1-Happy: The protagonists sets out to accomplish what she desires and succeeds. She’s happy.

2-Unhappy: The protagonist gets what she wants but decides it doesn’t make her happy.

3-Happy: The protagonist doesn’t get what he wants. Still, he is happy because he got something unexpected, something he likes better.

4-Unhappy: The protagonist doesn’t get what she wants because of her own flaws. Such as, she doesn’t realize until it is too late what she has lost forever, her true love.

5-Neither happy or unhappy: The protagonist changes his mind about what he wants and is content to keep searching for what he wants, or sacrifices what he wants for someone, or something else.

Endings to Avoid at all Costs:

1-The No-ending Ending: This is when the story ends without explanation. The writer makes the reader guess. Ugh. No one likes this ending.

2-The Twilight Zone Ending: The writer doesn’t compose an ending that evolves out of conflicts the characters face; instead, the writer slaps on a twist ending, a contrivance.

Synopsis from Fiction First Aid, by Raymond Obstfeld



9 thoughts on “How to Write Unforgettable Endings

  1. The twilight zone ending drives me insane. A lot of TV shows deploy it too. It’s infuriating lol. The no-ending ending is deployed by many writers who scatter symbols throughout their work. But I agree, the unresolved plot is bound to leave many frustrated. Having said that, there are books like No Country for old men that give you no closure because they reflect life. They use false protagonists and are not cathartic. I have a love/hate relationship with them lol. Great post btw. It made me think deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The book doesn’t have a gunshot at the end, if I remember clearly. There’s simply no closure, but I think Cormac McCarthy specialises in that sort of thing. Even The Road is a bleak, nihilistic book with a lot of sadness and no real catharsis for the reader.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And then there was the Civil War novel during which I waited and waited and waited to find out what the conflict was between the husband and the wife, which was consistently hinted at throughout. I get to the last page, and instead of finding out what happened between them, she accidentally shoots him. The End

    Liked by 1 person

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