Carrie reads a lot of novels in progress and helps writers make those novels better and one of the big things that happen that keep a book from being super star status is an unsatisfying ending.
Yes. Yes, that is about books, not sex, Shaun. But some of the same principles apply to both.
You want your ending to be satisfying even if it’s an unhappy ending.
So, how do you make your ending satisfying?
Ah, just like the copulation, it’s all about fulfilling your promises to the reader in the lead-up to that ending, right?
Your reader has been hanging out with you for 50,000 words at least (usually) and that means that you owe them what you’ve promised them–a complete story with a damn fine ending.
Here are the things to know:
The character at the end of the book should have changed enough to react to the events in a way that they wouldn’t have reacted on page 10.
Most books that are satisfying have a main character that changes. They evolve (positive change arc) or devolve (negative change arc). Their situation is different at the end of the book and you, the author, want to recognize that and show us readers — WOW! Look at how Sparty the Dog is so much stronger now. He’s dealing with that squirrel in a way he never would have on page 10.
All the events that have happened prior to the climax and the ending have made Sparty the dog that’s able to handle his arch nemesis like a boss.
There needs to be emotional growth (or regression) in your main character at the end of this story.
And this growth at the ending has to be shown in the gorgeous story in between the beginning and the ending.
If we imagine the story as three acts, then the ending is where we see how Act One (the set-up, who the character used to be, their original want) and Act Two (where the character’s world changes and they proactively go after their wants, messing up, succeeding, learning and evolving) makes the character who they are now.
Do they get the girl? Save the world? Defeat the evil demon? Throw poop on their landlord?
Do they come to terms with grief?
The ending matters because of everything in the story that the hero has gone through to get there.
They have to earn that ending and when they do? Oh, boy, is it satisfying.
The Ending Doesn’t Matter Much if You Don’t Make It Matter
You want to give your readers the answers to the questions that exist in your story. No loose ends. No mysteries that just end with a ‘to be continued’ because you’ve hit 70,000 words.
It is all about satisfying the reader. If you promise the reader a sexy romance and there’s no sex and the significant other slinks off on the last page to go wrestle guinea pigs in Ireland with someone else? You’re breaking that promise to the reader and totally not satisfying. You are being a bad lover. I mean writer.
Nobody wants that.
WRITING TIP OF THE POD
Think about what your reader wants. Aim to please your lover/reader.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Sparty says it’s more satisfying to earn your treat rather than just be given the treat. The journey makes the ending more satisfying.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.
Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!