Writing A Book: 6 Ending Types

You may know it when you start, it might pop up when outlining, or you could have no clue until you’re writing the last chapter, but every book needs an ending, and every writer needs to work out the best kind to use.

Luckily for us, there are plenty of options to choose from, such as the following 6 types!

Writing A Book: 6 Ending Types

1) Resolved/Tied Up

As I’m sure you can guess from the name, this type of book ending resolves everything.

It’s the happy-ever-after, tie-it-up-in-a-neat-bow, totally satisfying option.

For a resolved ending to work, your story should do its best to answer every unanswered question, address the story conflicts, and mysteries, and complete the character arcs.

It doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect and the ending happy, but it does carry the expectation of closure, which means you’ve got to practice your knots and get those plot threads tied up!

Be sure to keep track of your story’s details to make the job easier on yourself, and to give your readers the best chance of closing your book with a smile on their faces.

2) Cliffhanger/Unresolved

On the other end of the spectrum is a book ending that doesn’t resolve and leaves readers wanting more via the introduction of a cliffhanger.

Now, this kind of ending doesn’t mean you should leave every story question unresolved. You need to give the readers something, and it’s still important to tie off most threads. Where a cliffhanger ending works best is when it’s just one mystery left or the start of a new one. That way, you don’t frustrate a reader who wants a resolution for the book they’ve already spent hours invested in.

This is one reason a cliffhanger ending is something you’ll see in a series. In such cases, a reader expects the answer in another book. If you aren’t resolving things and there isn’t a next book, you’re delving into a standalone unresolved ending, which is also an option.

Readers may not like it, but if done well, an unresolved ending where an important factor of the book is never known can be powerful. Just make sure you have a good reason for implementing it.

3) Expanded/Epilogue

An expanded ending is where you’ve resolved the main plot and then use the closing pages to expand the story just a little further.

It might be a note about the future of the characters after the big event of your finale, a “Three months later…” type thing, or a flash-forward decades ahead.

It could also be an epilogue that gives the reader more information to round things out. Some editors advise against using epilogues, but as a reader who enjoys them myself, I say go with what suits your writing style and the book you’re crafting.

If the main story is told but you need to impart info that is separate from the ending, give this option a try. Often, it’ll give your readers a good sense of finality without dragging things on for another five chapters.

4) Circle

A circle ending is where the end of your book starts back at the beginning.

This can be a very effective writing trick. Often, something that seemed insignificant or typical at the start of the book can gain new meaning when the story circles back to it.

If you want to aim for this type of ending, brainstorm how you can shift the perspective of your opening event once the reader has been through the entire journey with your character/s, and work it into the ending in a way that’ll blow their minds.

5) Ambiguous/Interpretive

Just as there’s an ending type that most people prefer, there’s also one that is despised.

While some might argue it’s the cliffhanger, because it doesn’t give closure, I say it’s the ambiguous/interpretive ending.

This is the kind of story ending where you’re not sure what happened, you’ve been given info that could lead to multiple endings, or you’ve been left to make up your own mind. It can be very frustrating for readers when executed poorly.

Like every ending option, there are certain stories where an ambiguous/interpretive ending will suit what you’re going for, but if you want to pull it off, the best advice is to build toward it.

If you’re leaving it to your readers to make up their minds, at least give them hints, clues, and foreshadowing so they can arrive at some semblance of a resolution. After all, you want them to close the book and think about what happened, not throw it across the room and then tell everyone they know it’s a waste of time.

6) Combo

A combo ending will—you guessed it—combine ending types.

Where this option can go wrong is using too many combinations. Your best bet is to stick to two and do them well.

For example, a cliffhanger that circles back to the beginning could create an ending that will leave your readers in awe. A cliffhanger that circles back, gives three ambiguous choices, and then an epilogue that only gives closure to one… not so much. Keep. It. Simple.

And there you have 6 book ending types! Learn how to expertly craft the tricks behind each kind and always go with the ending that suits your story best. That way, you should be able to close your book out in a way that suits both you and the majority of your readers.

— K.M. Allan

What’s your favorite type of book ending to both read and write? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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32 thoughts on “Writing A Book: 6 Ending Types

  1. Great post! Informative and helpful as always. For my current series, I resolve all the major threads and then use the Epilogue to hint at what’s coming in the next book. It’s funny that some readers disparage the resolved ending because it isn’t realistic, while others despise cliffhangers of any sort, feeling as though they have been cheated! Sometimes you just can’t win.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Alexander 😊. Ooh, I’ve never thought to use the epilogue to reveal the next book. That’s a good way to do it. I’m a big fan of cliffhangers, especially in a series. I don’t know why some people hate them either 🤷🏻‍♀️. Yes, I’ve heard people say happy endings aren’t realistic, but some books need them, and I think those books are good to read when real life gets to be too much.

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  2. I love happy endings, and based on feedback, my readers do too. So many of us read to escape reality and daily life where, sadly, there is a lot of unhappiness. If I can provide a few hours of pleasure in a book, then I’ve contributed something important. The nay-sayers can read something else!

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  3. I have used the epilogue and circle back in combination. It allows me to tell the reader something the main character doesn’t know. As a reader, I like all of these options except the ambiguous ending. I know some people love them but my brain doesn’t work that way!

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    1. Ooh, what a great combo to use. I’ve yet to use the circle option. I’m just waiting for the right idea to hit me. I love that you use it to tell the reader a secret. What an awesome way to use it. I’m with you on the ambiguous ending too. My brain also doesn’t work that way 🤣.


  4. For my in-progress trilogy, I use a combination of resolved and unresolved – the main plot is dealt with, but there are minor loose ends for a potential continuation.

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      1. The first book is a clear lead to following books. The second book closes one plot thread (secondary antagonist) while giving some hints as for the progress with the primary antagonist, which will be the main focus in book three. Then, the events of books two and three hint at the disagreements between some factions and those are approached as a loose thread for potential future while being an open ending for the moment. At least that’s the current draft, the final result may vary a bit.

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  5. I’ve been struggling with my thoughts about the ending of my manuscript, wondering if it’s enough. At the same time, I feel resistance about changing it. Your post has helped me resolve this issue. My ending is an ambiguous one, and at the same time a circle one. Knowing this has put me at ease, so I won’t be changing it.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I like at least the major storyline tied up if it needs to be. I can’t stand endings without proper closure. If a writer leaves hints so I can guess at it, sure, but the ones where there’s nothing to go on but confusion don’t sit well with me as a reader.

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  6. Pingback: Writing A Book: 6 Ending Types — K.M. Allan | RuhlWrites

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