Friday, April 5, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Excellent Endings


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! This is my first year participating. Basically, we post every day except Sunday, which in April means we'll finish on the 30th. We blog about something each day which starts with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. So, day 1=A, day 2=B, etc. Visit the A to Z blog for more details.

My theme is writing and related bookish things. A pretty vague theme, I'll admit, but as this is a writing/bookish blog, I thought I'd clarify.

Today's letter: E 
D is for Excellent Endings.

As someone who tends to write multi-volume series, I've done a lot of thinking about endings. If you're writing a stand-alone novel, the end can have all kinds of resolution, but what if you're not? 

Have you ever read a book where the "cliffhanger" ending felt no different than the end-of-chapter cliffhangers that were present throughout the entire book? Ever been a little annoyed by that?

So what's the difference between an awesome cliffhanger ending and an annoying one? The answer is closure. On Monday, I talked about story and character arcs. When you start an arc, you need to finish it. Whatever the major conflict of the book is should be at least somewhat resolved by the ending. That's not to say that everything should all be neatly tied up with a bow, especially if you have more books to write. But there should be some sense of closure for the story. Something that changes. A feeling of moving on to the next phase.

J.K.Rowling accomplished this by 1) having the kids age and finish a year of school with each book and, more importantly, 2) has him vanquish the major problem of the book. In book 1, he got the Sorcerer's Stone and defeated Voldemort (for the time being). In book 2, he find the Chamber of Secrets and defeats the ghost of Voldemort (for the time being). See a pattern developing here?

Meanwhile, there's always unanswered questions about Harry's past and the looming possibility of Voldemort coming back into power, which keeps us reading later volumes.

So, in short, when writing the endings of multi-volume stories, make sure there is closure in the smaller things that have to do with that specific book, but leave enough unanswered questions to propel the reader forward, into the next installment. Easy, right? Clear as mud? Okay then.

What do you think? Have any tips for writing endings?


  1. Solve the big problem. Little problems optional.

  2. I think Rowling was a PRO on that whole ending thing... you knew until the last that the big underlying thing was still there, but something huge came full circle each book and it was part of the bigger plot. I am a person for whom the ending makes a huge difference to what sticks with me--it is why, though I LOVE Stephen King's writing, I frequently hate his books--the ending often disappoints me. It doesn't live up to the rest. I'm trying to put together something to release serially (not a series, so much as more like a TV season does it--small plot each week, big overall over about 6-10, for a total of maybe 800 pages). That satisfaction each 'week' but that still pulls you back to the next is the tricky part. I don't want it to just be a 'to be continued'.

  3. Great advice! I will be reviewing my endings now...

    Jana @ A Novel Reality

  4. I can't count the number of times a movie or book ended and I was left with little questions. Those are the ones that stick with me.

  5. I love the end of the Harry Potter series and that is brave and not entirely happy!