Like a great dinner party or once-in-a-lifetime vacation, all good things must come to an end. Hopefully, a really excellent, memorable ending! This is also true of that book you’re writing. You have a fantastic first chapter, a perfectly paced middle, and now it’s time to wrap up your story with an unforgettable ending.
This is no way to end it all: Deus ex machina (god from the machine) is a way of wiping out all conflict by inserting some benevolent force into your story at the last second to right every wrong. While this may have worked for ancient playwrights and storytellers, nowadays most readers will consider it, at best, lazy; at worst, cheating! The ending needs to be appropriate to the story you’re telling -- there are more than enough ways to surprise your reader without resorting to something completely out of left field.
Five Smart Ideas For When The End Is Near:
1. The trusty plot twist: Plot twists are great alternatives to inserting last-minute characters who fix everything. Like deus ex machina, a plot twist offers the unexpected, but the key difference is that it makes sense within the story’s world. A good twist feels surprising but somehow appropriate for the story and protagonist.
2. The “oh, no!” that leads to the “aha!”: Life is crashing down on your protagonist, the weight of the story’s conflict is becoming too much to handle, and he or she simply isn’t up to the task -- everything is surely doomed. Congratulations! Your character is in the story’s darkest moment, where someone or something must serve as inspiration for rising up against all odds and saving the day. In these desperate times your character searches within, has a eureka! epiphany, and ends your story with triumph and satisfied readers.
3. Going back to square one: This path takes your protagonist to the same dark moment already mentioned. But, when given a clear opportunity to turn his or her life around, the character... doesn’t. Instead, he or she reverts back to old ways, or the status quo. This type of ending works best if you are writing a character-driven novel.
4. Is this really the end?: Open-ended endings are tough to pull off and require quite a bit of character and plot understanding, but leaving your readers with thoughtful questions can get them talking and thinking about possible answers.
5. Close the book: After the final climactic moment, don’t hang around explaining “this is what happens after.” Readers tend to lose interest once the story’s reached a satisfying conclusion.
Some writers like to experiment with different endings until they come to one that best suits their story. Don’t be afraid to write, rewrite, and rewrite again until your ending sounds natural, satisfactory, and complete! The end!
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