The beginning of a novel is important because it serves as a “hook” that arrests your readers’ attention and encourage them to continue flipping the pages. Check out my article for tips on how to write the first sentence of your fiction novel~
Endings too are important because it’s the conclusion where everything you’ve set up comes to an end. It might leave readers guessing or at the edge of their seats, create a “feel good” emotion or make them cry like a baby.
Today, we’ll explore 6 ways to end your story.
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1. Resolved Ending
Resolved ending is where all threads of the novel are clearly and satisfyingly resolved. There shouldn’t be any loose ends. Also, readers shouldn’t have any lingering questions.
Here are two extreme ends of the spectrum (but you can also finish with an ending that simply resolves everything):
Positive Ending: Happily Ever After (HEA), Happy For Now (HFN)
“And they all lived happily ever after…”
This is a classic fairy tale ending and also a typical positive ending that usually occurs in romance novels. In fact, HEA and HFN are crucial elements of the romance genre. Some readers even feel that if the book doesn’t have a HEA or HFN, it’s not romance.
Happy endings create a sense of hope and optimism where the future is bright. This can be applied to all genres. However, I feel that using such ending in a dystopian novel can be a sarcastic way of showing how the characters are happy and oblivious to what they’re actually losing out on.
Negative Ending: Sad, Tragic, Bleak
Negative endings are usually sad, tragic or bleak. Such endings are used in tragedies or dystopian novels to show despair and powerlessness.
Sometimes, negative endings are painted as inevitable where the protagonist cannot escape his or her fate and sad ending. In fact, you can implement foreshadowing to hint readers about this ending. Foreshadowing can be applied in character dialogues, plot events and changes in setting.
2. Unresolved Ending
An unresolved ending is inconclusive. Such ending also leaves the readers with more questions than answers.
This cliffhanger is also a popular choice for books in a series. This frustration where you don’t know how the novel ends will encourage you to continue reading the next book in the series.
3. Open-Ended or Ambiguous Ending
An open-ended or ambiguous ending is open to interpretation because the ending isn’t clear. There are many open possibilities which can go many ways. Readers are actively invited to think about the events and clues in the story and draw a conclusion.
An unresolved ending doesn’t give enough information so readers won’t know what happens next but an open-ended or ambiguous ending allows readers to come to different conclusions.
You’ll typically use such endings if you don’t want a fixed definite conclusion. Instead, you might want to give both hope and despair to the readers and let them “decide” on the ending they prefer.
4. Expanded Ending or Epilogue
Expanded ending, as the name suggests, expands beyond the events of the narrative. It is usually told in the epilogue of a book. This might include a jump forward in time (for example, 3 years later in the future) or a change in perspective. It may also reframe the way readers have been thinking about the story.
One advantage of this ending is that the writer can answer questions that might not be possible to answer in the main narrative. For instance, how the world is like a decade later after the events of the story.
5. Unexpected or Twist Ending
An unexpected or twist ending is something that readers didn’t expect nor see it coming. It could be earth-shattering, clever or subtle.
A good twist, however, is actually one that is inevitable where the writer has left clues all along. Readers will appreciate the subtle hints and plot twists it took to get there.
Also, please don’t end with “everything was just a dream.” Personally, I really detest this. It’s like you’re building up so many expectations in your readers and drawing them into this world you create. Then, you shatter them all by saying all the events in the story were just a character’s dream or hallucination. Excuse me, I don’t want to wake up from this. I’m reading the book precisely because I want to escape the real world and now you’re snapping me back to reality (and telling me that all the hours I spent devouring the book were for nothing).
6. Full Circle Ending
As its name suggests, this ending brings the story full circle—it ends where it begins.
You could use the same sentence for the first and last sentence of your novel. Or you could end with your protagonist being in the same situation at the beginning of your story.
I find such endings interesting because it’s like returning to the original point. However, this is also a double-edged sword. Ending up right where you started can feel pointless. Therefore, you need to ensure that the journey there and back is meaningful and worthwhile.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you ended your fiction novel with any of the above endings? How was it?
Do consider getting novel planning worksheets. Etsy has many such printables, including word count trackers, novel outlines, character profiles, worldbuilding basics and more.
For more book publishing and marketing tips, consider joining classes like How To Write And Publish An eBook and Sell Your First 1000 Books. Or watch streaming broadcasts of free online classes at CreativeLive! You can also join online courses at Fiverr Learn~