Ah, book endings. Every story needs to have one, but not every story pulls it off.
If you’ve ever read a book to the last page and been bitterly disappointed by the ending, you’ll know what I mean.
It’s frustrating as a reader to be enjoying a book and then have the story fall apart in the final few chapters. This isn’t so much about disagreeing with the author’s creative choices, but more about whether the end of the book lived up to all the promises it made.
Yep, there are certain promises set out in stories, and to give your readers the ending they deserve, your book should try to fulfill them.
If you want to know if you’ve done that, check your MS for the following…
How To Tell If You’ve Nailed Your Book Ending
You’ve Answered The Big Questions
Questions throughout your book will keep the reader turning the pages. They can range from little ones, like why the MC doesn’t talk to their mother anymore, to big ones, like what they will do with the bag of cash they found buried in their backyard.
The little ones can get answered as the story goes on or left for other books if you’re working on a series, but the end should answer any big story questions. If you don’t, the reader will be annoyed that they’ve just read hundreds of pages chasing a mystery to not find any answers.
The MC Is Active In The Climax
Readers have spent most of the book with your main character, and if you’ve done your job as a writer, they are attached to them. They want to see them win or get what they deserve. If you’re ending leads to a big climax and the MC is on the sidelines or nowhere to be found, the reader will not be happy with the ending.
Make sure your MC isn’t just observing or having things happen to them or around them during your big ending. They need to be there, active in the climax and changing the outcome.
You’ve Saved The Highest Stakes Until Last
Stakes drive the story forward and should build toward one big stake that will make or break the MC. Keep whatever that stake is until last, and then bring it to a head so it can be resolved.
For example, kicking off your story with a kidnapping and leaving the rescue until the final chapters with the MC having their big hero moment and the kidnapper getting their comeuppance puts the highest stakes last. Following that same plot but having the rescue occur halfway through the book just sets you up for a fizzer of an ending. What else are you going to fill the final chapters with if the highest stakes have already been and gone?
Save the rescue until the closing chapters and nail that ending.
All Of Your Character Problems Have Been Addressed
Problems are another great thing to sprinkle through your book, but they also need to be addressed with some type of resolution if you want to create a satisfying ending.
Does that mean everything has to be tied up in a neat bow? No, but there should be something in your book that allows the reader to conclude any character problems raised, whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent.
The Relationships Between Characters Have Evolved
Just as any relationship in life changes and evolves, so should the relationships between your characters.
If they meet in the first chapter, they should know each other well by the final. Some could be friends at the start of the book and then enemies by the end or vice versa. The point is, relationships should change and deepen throughout the course of the book, and you’ll want that obvious difference by the closing pages to help create a good ending.
You Haven’t Started Anything New
With the exception of a series cliffhanger, the ending of your book should resolve, or hint at the fate, of everything and there should be no new story thread kicked off.
You want your readers closing the page, knowing what happened in your story and being at peace with the ending (regardless of whether it was happy or sad), not throwing your tome across the room because something new happened on the final page and there won’t be another book to resolve it. Don’t be that writer.
The Resolution Isn’t Too Short
Your final resolution shouldn’t be something that drags on through the final ten chapters, but it also shouldn’t be done and dusted in one page.
The readers have been on this journey with you since the first sentence, and they want to see a resolution that is satisfactory and doesn’t finish too quickly. If you can’t judge how long or short your ending should be, workshop it with some trusted beta readers.
Crafting the right ending to any story requires skill, and as the author of your book world, you’re perfect for the job. Follow the natural story and include these tips and you should definitely nail your ending!
— K.M. Allan
What’s the best or worst ending to a book you’ve read? Let’s discuss it in the comments!