I’ve been thinking about endings lately.
It makes sense. I recently turned in the final draft of Incarnate 3, several of the Pub Crawl girls are working on their series-enders, and a few series I love are coming to a close.
All this has made me remember one of my favorite quotes about endings.
Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass. — The Prophet Chuck, SUPERNATURAL
I mean, when I was double-checking this quote, I got a “you know you’re in safe-search mode, right?” reminder from duckduckgo, but Chuck isn’t wrong: endings are hard.
Still, there are some ways to make sure you’re on the right path toward a solid, satisfying ending — whether it’s the end of a standalone book, a trilogy, or a monster series.
1. Plot resolution: What are your biggest plot lines? What major conflicts did you bring up in the beginning of the book? Resolve those. If the end of the world starts on page 5, then the world better be saved (or ended) on the last page. And if there’s an evil government after the main character in chapter two, by the last chapter, s/he should be free (or captured) in the last chapter.
Romances, major questions about the worldbuilding, and supporting plot lines all need to be tied up in a way that resolves the situation for the reader. It can be happy, sad, bittersweet — whatever, so long as there is closure.
2. Loose ends: You’re not going to be able to tie up all the loose ends — and some would argue that you shouldn’t. But do try to grab the ones that might make readers go “But I thought . . .” or “But what about . . .”
This is where critique partners and editors really come in handy. I mean, in addition to all the other places they really come in handy. Just because you know how all the details worked doesn’t mean those explanations made it to paper. So give your manuscript to a few smart people, figure out which loose ends are the most important, and focus on resolving those.
3. The meaning of life: This one is probably the most difficult. Because the Prophet Chuck is right (again): it all has to add up to something. Love, family, sacrifice, hope, choice, freedom, destiny, self-discovery — it’s up to you. But this, I think, is one of the places story resonance happens. This meaning, this foundation of truth is one of the things that will keep readers thinking about the story long after it’s over.
You’ll never be able to satisfy every reader with your ending, but you’re not writing for every reader. You’re writing for you. For the story. Close the story in a way that satisfies you.
“No doubt—endings are hard. But then again, nothing ever really ends, does it?” — The Prophet Chuck, SUPERNATURAL
Without spoiling anything about the story, what are some of your favorite endings? What endings are you especially looking forward to?
Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut.
*A Kippy is a cat.