Writing the End – Part III
Greetings Storytellers! For a couple of months now, we’ve been exploring the topic of endings and how important they are to creating a satisfying and lasting impression of our books. If you want to catch up on previous posts, here they are:
Part One – Why endings are critical to success.
Part Two – The first four common ways to end a story.
There are 8 common ways to end a story.
Endings covered in the last post (1-4):
- Resolved Ending
- Unresolved Ending
- Ambiguous Ending
- Surprise Ending
Endings we’ll dive into today (5-8):
- Tie-back Ending
- Altered World Ending
- Altered Character Ending
- The Epilog
As mentioned in the last post, not all types of endings are mutually exclusive, and the goal isn’t to pick one kind of ending and force your story to conform. Instead, it’s to focus on what you want to emphasize as the most important element of your book, what final experience you want to give your readers as they approach the last page. It’s how you fulfill the promise you made at the story’s beginning.
5. Tie-back Ending
A story with a Tie-back Ending begins and ends in the same way. The author reveals the ending at the beginning of the story and then fills in the details of how it came about. While this approach may remove some of the suspense, a talented author can add plenty of twists and unexpected plot points.
The cyclical nature of this type of story can be quite literal, returning the story to the exact moment it began, or it can be metaphorical, perhaps returning the protagonist to the same physical place but as a changed person.
Tie-back endings can give an author a solid sense of direction when writing a book — after all, they know how the story turns out, but it doesn’t necessarily make the writing easier. Quite the opposite, the writer must give greater depth to any repeated scenes so that, by the end, they convey a completely different feel or meaning.
6. Altered World Ending
In an Altered Word Ending, the world that the main characters knew is gone and is not coming back. These types of endings aren’t limited to dystopic science fiction; they apply to any story where someone is facing a new start (in a new country, new city, new job, or new family). Stories about escape from a war-torn nation or finding a home after years in foster care could easily fit into this type of ending.
Usually, the altered world is a result of events beyond the character’s control, and the focus of the story’s ending is on the main character’s personal reactions, positive or negative, as they decide how to move forward in their new situation.
When planning for an Altered World ending, an author must consider the character’s responses to their changing environment as the story progresses, as well as how those responses will tie into their final reaction to the world ahead of them.
7. Altered Character Ending
The Altered Character ending is similar to the Altered World ending, except in this case, the emphasis is on the character’s internal transformation. Their environment and circumstances stay much the same, but the character now sees things with fresh eyes because they have changed on the inside.
A character’s internal change of perspective is the focus of this ending. An author writing an altered character ending should consider the character’s internal reactions to events in the book, making sure that their thoughts and decisions ultimately point toward the character’s final change in perspective.
8. The Epilog
This type of ending describes what happens to the world or characters after the main story ends. Epilogs (like Prologs) often get a bad wrap, but if they serve an important function, there’s no reason not to use them.
Epilogs should give further insight into the story and provide a feeling of resolution. They might offer a broader perspective on how the events in the final chapters impacted the characters and their world. They may give readers a peek into the protagonist’s future, or into the lives of those left behind. Characters may look back on events with greater wisdom or despair.
With epilogs, there’s usually a significant shift from the main story (otherwise, they’d just be the final chapter). There’s often a fast-forward in time or a sharp pivot in POV, though they aren’t limited to those changes.
Epilogs shouldn’t take the place of a traditional ending or compensate for a weak ending, but they can effectively tie up a few loose ends that the main story couldn’t address.
That wraps up Part III of our exploration of endings.
Let me know if I missed one! Have you used one of these endings or a combination of them? Do you have a favorite as a writer? As a reader?
In Part IV, we’ll start exploring the Elements that make up a Satisfying Ending