Since I’m moving away from 1-2-3 Publish, I wanted to offer writers another way to grow and learn. That’s when it hit me! I have TONS of workshops in my library that I created for my writing group that I can bring over here and share with writers. These workshops can be done solo, with a partner, or in a group. Every Friday, there’ll be a new workshop on a new topic.
How to Write a Satisfying Ending
Some writers try and do parallel endings where they have the story end in the same place it began to show how the characters and world has changed or not changed throughout the course of the story. Other writers tend to follow their story idea and characters to their logical conclusion. Where writers fall off of the path of their story and buff their endings is when they try and force their story idea and characters to the ending they want.
When editing and doing reading for submissions, this type of ending is really easy to pick out. A lot of times it’ll either be rushed or illogical based on the events throughout the story. I’m a personal believer in writing multiple endings to find the one that feels the most impactful and gives the reader the most satisfaction. Though I use the word satisfaction to mean the emotions I want them to feel at the end of the story and for them to feel as though I knew where the story was going and took them there the best way possible.
Prominent speculative fiction editor Sheila Williams of Asimov said this of endings in her interview with Odyssey:
It’s a huge relief when an unfamiliar author lands the ending. In a great ending, the multiple layers of a story come together in a satisfying way. A well-thought-out ending shows me that I’m in the hands of a professional or budding professional. Generally, a good ending is not one that the author tacked on to their story. Sometimes I realize that the ending was foretold in the opening paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean that it was predictable, just that the groundwork was laid. Although an ending can develop organically from the tale being told, many authors begin their story with an understanding of exactly where and how the story will conclude. Sometimes they even write it first.
And author E.C. Ambrose discusses how she writes endings in her interview with Odyssey:
The ideal ending for a story is both surprising and inevitable. When the reader arrives, they think, “I didn’t see that coming—but of course it makes perfect sense!” The right ending resonates with the themes and images of the work as a whole and usually speaks back to how it began—how the character or conflict was established. The markers for the ending should be clear in retrospect, but not as they arrive in the text. Some of the endings I find most frustrating are the ones where the author had a great ending, then kept writing afterward for another few paragraphs or a few pages. This is what epilogues are for. Find the ending at which your characters have developed and discovered as they need to. Work on an image or line to capture the essence of that story. And if you feel like something else needs to be said, add the epilogue. The best ending for a story is rarely the first or second one we think of. Keep working. What would be the best possible outcome? What would be the worst? What climax and denouement will hit your protagonist’s triggers in the most painful and then most satisfying ways? See—it’s easy!
Both of these quotes resonate with me and how I understand, write, and read endings.
Workshop Exercise & Discussion
For your workshop this week, you’ll focus on story endings (and not so much chapter or scene endings). If you’re doing this workshop alone, write a journal entry or take notes on each of the resource links shared below. If you’re doing this in a group, discuss the resources shared below, how each of you sees endings, and what ways you write them. Share examples from your own works in the group and examples of endings that are pleasing or satisfying in other stories you’ve come across.
For the workshop exercise, pick a story of yours and write 3–5 different endings. If you’re doing this in a group, share your endings with each other. Don’t critique each others stories. Instead, see where they did things right. Encourage and help them see how they did with the prompt.
- Creative Penn Podcast for Writers- Unforgettable Endings with James Scott Bell
- The talk on endings is about 20 mins in and ends around 40 mins in.
- Charlie Jane Anders: The Ending is the Beginning
- Writing Excuses Podcast: Writing the End
- Jerry Jenkins: How to End a Story
- Finding Your Way to the End
- Chuck Wendig Endings Are Not Stoppings: On Game Of Thrones, And How We Conclude Our Stories(Game of Thrones spoilers)
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