The Final Say: How to Write the Perfect Ending

How to Write the Perfect Ending

Before you begin writing your masterpiece, you must first understand how to write the perfect ending. After all, a book is only as good as its ending. Your ending will leave the final impression on your readers, and a bad one might sour their opinion of your entire book. Writing the perfect ending, of course, is far more art than science, and it’s something that even our most celebrated authors have gotten wrong. (Compare, for instance, the original ending of Great Expectations to the one that was actually published.) To that end, let’s take a look at some tips to get your ending pointed in the right direction.

Know Your Resolution Beforehand

Before you get to finishing things, understand the resolution you want to provide. What message, emotion, or realization do you want readers to take away? Whatever your answer to that question is, try to keep it in mind as early into your writing process as possible, as this will allow your text to flow freely toward your intended ending. On the other hand, readers will be able to tell if you’ve simply pulled your ending out of a hat.

No matter your conclusion, make sure you reach it honestly. Even if your ending is meant to surprise or shock the reader, ensure your story reaches this twist via a thoughtful buildup, not a random leap.

Close Your Character Arcs

By the time your story ends, readers will have become extremely invested in your characters. You owe it to them to resolve your characters’ arcs and tie up their loose ends. Your major characters might find resolution through personal growth, redemption, the completion of a journey, the acquisition of wisdom, and so on. Failing to do this will make your story feel incomplete, and your ending ineffective. Readers will appreciate seeing your characters evolve and overcome (or, depending on the nature of your story, fail to overcome) challenges.

Stay True to Your Theme

Revisit the theme or central message of your book at the end. A well-crafted conclusion should reflect the thematic elements built into your narrative. It brings the story full circle, reinforcing the core ideas and leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s mind. Be as subtle as you like — if implemented correctly, readers will pick up on the thematic unity, even if it’s not explicitly spelled out.

Avoid Deus Ex Machina

When learning how to write the perfect ending, resist the urge to arbitrarily finish out your story with a twist. While surprises and twists can be powerful, avoid introducing elements that feel forced or come out of nowhere. An effective ending should be a natural progression of the story, satisfying the expectations set throughout the narrative. Twists merely for the sake of twists feel cheap and will leave your readers feeling cheated. A thoughtfully constructed twist, on the other hand, can leave an incredible impression on your audience, so if your story ends with a surprise, make sure it’s executed intelligently.

Consider Reader Expectations

Take into account the expectations you’ve set for your readers. If your book follows a certain genre or thematic pattern, ensure that the ending aligns with these expectations. A sad, downbeat ending may not be the best choice for a light romance novel, just as a picture-perfect happy ending might feel out of place at the end of your grim horror tale. This doesn’t mean that you should let reader expectations stymie your creativity. Instead, you should treat these expectations as a guide for what your audience is willing to tolerate.

Create Indelible Images

The ending is your parting glance, your final handshake, your last goodbye. (Until the sequel, anyway.) Make it one to remember. Craft vivid images in the closing scenes. Whether through haunting prose, poignant dialogue, or symbolic descriptions, leave your readers with an image that will remain long after they close your book for the last time. Don’t be afraid to part with your readers via an abstract or metaphorical element, either, if your story supports it. See, for example, the ambiguous epilogue of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian — a brief-yet-powerful passage that is still actively discussed nearly four decades after its publication.

Don’t Rush It

Resist the urge to rush the ending. Allow the conclusion to unfold at a pace that allows readers to savor the resolution. Rushed endings can leave readers feeling unsatisfied or disconnected from the narrative. If you can’t wait to be done with your own story, it will show, and your audience will fail to take your work seriously.

Break All of These Rules

Rules are made to be broken. Just like real life, many stories simply can’t be bound up in a neat package. Sometimes the most effective ending is confusing, disappointing, or even frustrating. Maybe a character will finish out a book without undergoing any change, or without learning a thing. Sometimes that’s simply the way it has to be. If you’re going to ignore conventional wisdom, however, make sure you’re doing it for defensible reasons. Great literature is built on piles of broken rules and discarded conventions, but you must first understand the rules and conventions before you can thoughtfully circumvent them.

Remember, your ending is the last impression your readers will carry, so make it as indelible as the journey itself.

At Presto Page, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Whether you need assistance with self-publishing, design services, or any other aspect of self-publishing, we’re your partners in success. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!

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