Monday, April 6, 2015

A to Z Challenge: E is for Endings

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

E is for Endings!

Whenever I do a book review, I talk about the ending. I don't give spoilers, but rather I talk about if I liked the ending or not. Whether it was satisfying, whether it was fitting for the story, whether characters arcs were closed or left open and whether I liked that or not. The ending is very important for me because in my opinion, it really can make or break a story.

Here are some tips on writing/editing endings.

1) The ending should reflect the beginning - The beginning and ending of a story should parallel one another in some way, so that it feels like the story comes full circle. Of course there are countless ways this could be done. 

Example: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The children return to the professor's home after their adventures, to tell them of their experiences and go back to keeping an eye out for the magic of Naria, which makes the story feel complete.

2) The ending should reflect the overall theme of the story - Whatever your theme or themes are, make sure they show up in the ending, whether literally or figuratively. In my opinion, the more obvious the better, though of course it shouldn't be totally on the nose. (Please don't have one of your characters say, "If we just all love each other everything will be all right.)

Example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Themes of friendship are established early on as Harry befriends Ron and Hermione. They are especially potent when juxaposed with how the Dursleys treat Harry and how he makes an enemy of Draco. The theme comes across full force and Hermione even has a line about how friendship is more important than most other things.

3) The ending should fulfill or resolve imagery - I won't talk about imagery in detail until Friday (as in I is for Imagery and Symbolism) but if you have certain imagery established in your story (and I would argue that you should) and especially if that imagery is symbolic of something, you need to include it in your ending. It should either be a fulfillment of that imagery or a resolution of it. 

Example: If you have a crow show up early on, representing doom, at the end you should have the crow again. (Whether it's the same or a different one doesn't matter.) You should either show something like the crow flying away (the doom has passed) or if the doom wasn't averted and something tragic happened, perhaps just have the crow flying around, as if to say, "I told you so."

These are very broad, obvious examples, but you get the gist.

For serial endings - If you're writing an ending for a book that is part of an on-going series, all the above things apply, but consider a few more. 

1) Should include a call to action or something to propel the reader into the next installment - This could be a cliffhanger ending, a foreshadowing of what's to come, or a call to action for the character, so the reader feels rather than just knows that the story will go on.

2) Should sum up the problems of this book so that this installment, at least to some extent, can stand on its own. - The biggest problem with series books is when the story feels like it ends in the middle of a scene. Make sure you have some kind of resolution for the major conflict in this installment, even if the overall conflict for the series is still on-going.

One final note: 

We are talking about book endings, but these same techniques can be employed for chapter endings, just on a smaller scale. The more self-contained each chapter is, the better. Of course every chapter, with the possible exception of the last, would be considered a serial ending, and should propel the reader into the next chapter. 

What kinds of endings are your favorites?


  1. I can see how the beginning and end of my latest tie together. I didn't even intend for them to tie together either.

    1. That's good! It means you're a natural born story teller and do these kinds of things automatically. Go you! :D

  2. That's good advice for building a series as long as the cliff-hanger isn't too maddening.

    1. Yeah, cliff hangers don't bother me overly much, but I know a lot of readers are really frustrated by them. Thanks Maurice. :D