How to End Your Novel so They Come Back for More
There’s a lot of to-do about the opening of a story. I mean, writers probably have more practice starting stories as opposed to finishing them. Right?
Looks over surreptitiously at a pile of unfinished works in progress.
We also hear a lot about that pesky saggy middle when the excitement of the opening is long over and now you’re wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do with these characters.
Sure, the opening, middle, and all the parts in between are important, but truly nailing the end of that book is where you’re going to create dedicated fans who are already begging for the next one. And if you want to make a career of this whole writing thing, you have to make sure you leave them wanting more.
So how do you end a book? In this article, we’ll go over:
- Different types of book endings
- Steps to writing a strong book ending
- Some novels with killer endings
Ways to End a Novel
How do you tie up all the loose ends, deliver a satisfying conclusion, and make sure the reader is left with a sense of closure? Here are the most common ways to end your novel.
Reach a Resolution
The arguably most classic way is to have the main characters reach a resolution. This is a great way to bring the story full circle and let readers know your protagonists have achieved those goals. It’s also a great way to show how the characters have changed or grown throughout the course of the novel. However, you want to try and avoid making the ending too perfect or predictable. That’s boring.
Leave Unanswered Questions
This can be a great way to spark discussion among readers and encourage them to think about the implications of the story in the bigger picture. Hopefully, you can get them arguing about it on social media.
Kidding. Kind of.
It can also be a powerful way to make a statement about themes you explored throughout the novel. Be mindful of leaving things too open-ended and with too many head scratchers so as not to frustrate your reader, though.
End with a Twist
A twist ending can also be a fun way to end your novel. The purpose, of course, is to hopefully surprise and maybe even shock the reader. It’s also a great way to show how the characters’ actions have unexpected consequences.
Just make sure the twist ending is believable and fits in with the rest of the story. You’ll need to make sure you’ve laid the clues along the way to make this ending stick.
End on a Cliffhanger
Nothing leaves them wanting more like a good old cliffhanger. Some readers will say they hate them, but gosh, do they work. So ignore those readers and leave them hanging by their fingernails.
This type of ending is best used for serials or trilogies, as it provides a sense of anticipation and excitement for the next installment. Just make sure the cliffhanger doesn’t feel like a cheap ploy for readers to buy the next book, even if it’s totally a cheap ploy to make them buy the next book. Wink. Wink.
How to Create a Strong Ending
Now that you know the different ways you could end your novel, here are some tips to ensure that ending is as strong as it can be.
1. Decide on a Resolution
Have a clear idea of the resolution you want to achieve. Consider the theme and message of the novel and think about how the plot might resolve itself accordingly. Consider the various elements at play in the story and imagine the most satisfying resolution for each of them. Make sure the resolution feels accurate for your characters and the plot you’ve created.
2. Ensure Consistency
The ending of a novel should remain consistent with the rest of the story. Make sure any resolutions or events that happen at the end are consistent with what happens at the beginning and in the middle. Throwing in a red herring at the last minute is likely to annoy your readers. If there are any plot holes or unresolved conflicts, make sure they’re resolved and addressed by the final chapter.
3. Create a Sense of Closure
The ending of a novel should provide your reader with a sense of closure and resolution. Be sure to tie together all the loose ends and provide a satisfying conclusion to the story. Make sure the reader has a clear understanding of what happened and why it happened.
Don’t forget to consider genre conventions here, too. If you’re writing a murder mystery, your ending should reveal who the killer is. If you’re writing a thriller, the bad guy should be uncovered. If you’re writing a romance, then your lovebirds must have a happy ever after (or happy for now). This is part of giving your readers a satisfactory conclusion.
4. Leave the Reader Wanting More
A good ending should leave the reader wanting more—whether that’s the next book in a series or just more books written by you. Consider leaving some unanswered questions or unresolved conflicts. This helps leave the reader with a feeling of curiosity and a need to come back to the story and its characters.
If you just want them to pick up another book of yours, a good ending leaves them with positive happy feelings of how amazing you are. It’s a win-win.
5. Include a Call to Action
One good way to keep readers thinking about your book is to include a call to action for them to think about how the novel’s themes and ideas relate to their own lives. This call to action can be as simple as a quote or a moral, or as complex as a discussion of the various themes and issues presented.
Not all novels will lend themselves to this idea as others, but most stories teach us something about ourselves, which is often a way for readers to feel more connected.
6. Showcase Your Characters
The ending of your novel should also showcase your characters in a memorable way. Consider how the characters have changed throughout the story and how they’re portrayed at the end. What’s different from the beginning and how have they changed? Showing the characters’ growth and development helps make sure readers connect on a deeper level and also helps leave readers wanting more.
7. Focus on the Journey
While the ending of a novel should provide closure, don’t forget to focus on the journey rather than the destination. Remind the reader of the struggles and challenges the characters faced throughout your novel and how they overcame them.
Novels with Great Endings
One of the best ways to learn is to look at the masters. Here are some novels with memorable endings you might want to check out:
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger follows Holden Caulfield, a young man who has recently been expelled from prep school and is trying to make sense of the world. In the end, Holden decides to move forward with his life, and the novel ends with a sense of resolution and optimism. Holden’s decision to move forward gives readers a sense of closure, as well as hope for the future.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee follows Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the segregated South of the 1930s. At the end of the novel, Scout realizes that prejudice is something that must be fought against, and she decides to stand up for what she believes in. This ending is empowering and hopeful, leaving readers with a sense of hope and optimism.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald follows Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man who is trying to recapture his lost love. The novel ends with (spoiler alert) Gatsby’s death, and the reader is left with a sense of sadness and regret. Despite this, the novel ends on a note of optimism, as the reader is reminded of the beauty of Gatsby’s dream and that it’s possible to achieve it.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is an action-packed novel that follows Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who is thrust into the Hunger Games and must fight for her survival. In the end, Katniss overcomes her struggles and achieves victory. This ending is empowering and inspiring, leaving readers with a sense of hope and determination.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a heartbreaking yet uplifting novel that follows Amir, a young man struggling with guilt and regret over his past. At the end, Amir is able to make amends with his past and find redemption in the end. This ending is inspiring and uplifting, leaving readers with a sense of hope and forgiveness.
Now that you have some ideas on how to end the novel, you need to work on plotting it from front to back. Make use of the Dabble Plot Grid to help ensure your ending works with your opening and your middle and ensures you create lifelong readers.
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