I was going to post this Wednesday, but since I had a question about endings yesterday, I switched the order. Tomorrow will be middles.
The beginning of the story is about hooking your reader, making them want to read that story. The middle is about keeping your reader engaged in the story, and wanting to know what comes next. The end has two purposes.
One is to provide the reader a satisfying resolution to the story. The other is to make your reader want to read your next work. If it’s a work in a series, you want to give them a reason to keep following your arc. If it’s a standalone work, you want to make them feel so satisfied and so moved, surprised, or happy that they’ll be stalking your profile until you post another work.
If it’s a standalone work, you want to resolve everything, at least enough to satisfy the reader. You can leave them mulling over the story and the end in their mind, but you want them to mull because you made them think, not because you annoyed them. So, if you’re writing a case-fic with subplot of a romance and big decision a character has to make, resolve the case completely, and pick one of the other plots to completely resolve. The third plot, you can partially resolve, as in you suggest the direction the character is heading, but don’t write them taking it.
If it’s a series, resolve the main plot, and the most important subplots, but you can leave a few loose ends. In fact, you should leave a few loose ends. These should be small enough that they don’t take the reader’s attention away from the actual resolution, but big enough to be noticed and remembered. The reader will come back for the next story to see that loose end tied up. Look to Star Wars: A New Hope. The Death Star was blown up, the heroes are all safe, but neither Darth Vader, nor the Emperor are dead. The Empire can come back, and in fact does in the next film.
What makes a good ending?
- It leaves the reader satisfied.
- It ties up loose ends.
- It’s natural to the story.
- It’s plausible.
- It’s neither rushed nor fizzled.
- There’s only one.