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Writing Tips 9 - Effective Endings


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Beware the never ending seasons 'rom-com' style of storytelling that plagues western culture.

Every chapter should get you closer to the peak and/or end of the story. Filler pieces have their place but try to integrate them with the story and don't make them useless. Filler material is for broadening and deepening a reader's view of the world and characters that they may have otherwise never known. You can also use them to set up for later plot, tie up loose ends and side story plot threads before your story's peak.

After the story peak, everything should be about wrapping it up into a satisfying close. This may mean accomplishing the main point and saying The End, or it could mean accomplishing the main point and doing several little epilogue chapters that show how life progressed after the conflict was over; the adjustment to their new normal.


There are 4 main things that make an ending satisfying and effective, and if you've done any sort of writing lessons or research, you may already know or have at least heard of them.

  • 1) Effective endings show or suggest the result of the story's conflict.

A story conflict is a problem the main character has to solve. Readers keep reading to see whether or not they will succeed, and how they will attempt to solve it, or how they failed to.

  • 2) Effective story endings come from the Mc's actions.

Nobody likes a deus or Diabolus ex machina. (Deus; divine interference that takes care of the problem without the characters direct involvement. Diabolus; The evil counterpart of Deus ex machina. The introduction of an unexpected new event, character, ability, or object designed to ensure that things suddenly get much worse for the protagonists, much better for the villains, or both. )

The protagonist should be directly or indirectly responsible for the outcome of the story.

The reader is there to see whether or not the protagonists will fail or win by their own merits and weakness, and will be disappointed if it feels like you fixed the fight.

  • 3) Satisfying story endings use elements from the story's beginning and middle.

The ending should be a goal that's worked towards throughout the entire story.

An ending that comes out of the blue makes you feel cheated. Introducing something last minute that wasn't so much as hinted at throughout the entire story is not a satisfying ending.

You can fix this by placing careful hints throughout the beginning and middle of the story. So in the end, the reader's reaction will be "Aha!" instead of "Huh?"

As the author, you can "cheat" to set up your story ending. Once you know how you want the story to end, you can go back and plant hints here and there for the reader, so that when they reach the ending it will feel like a logical conclusion -- even inevitable.

  • 4) Great story endings make the reader feel something.

If you bring your characters and conflict to life, readers will care how everything works out and will feel something when your character succeeds or fails.

The easiest way I've found to do this, is with stakes. If your story feels like it's lacking impact, then you need to raise the stakes for the protagonists. They have to stand to lose something much more precious to them that will drive them to fight to the last second to keep it, and you can make their success or failure as close a call as you want.

Pro tip: If you want to rip out your reader's hearts, make your protagonists get within a hair's width of achieving their goal, and let it be just barely not enough.


If you're having trouble with your story or have gotten stuck, a good trick is to take these 4 points as questions and physically write down your story's answer to each of them.

For example: 1) Conflict; Everyone wants revenge for something different and no one trusts each other. 2) What actions can they take to get closer to their goal; They have to work together to get what they want even if they don't trust each other. 3) What elements from their journey, will allow them to reach the goal; Person A saved someone's life at one point whether deliberately or out of reflex and Person B returns the favor at a crucial moment, thus building some trust between them. And finally 4) What specific emotions do you want the reader to feel at the end? Triumph, sadness, hope, loss, that everything's ok, or crushing defeat, or even a mix; Person A accomplishes their goal and is stabbed in the back as soon as they're done. Person A doesn't manage to succeed on their own, but with a little help from Person B all ends well. Or, Person A didn't save Person B and Person B had to save themselves and in the end Person B didn't provide the help that would've accomplished Person A's goal.

Once you know what you want the reader to feel by the end, you can list all the ways you can think of that the story could end, and I recommend listing at least one for each outcome. Like one where they win, one where they lose, one where they would've if they hadn't '____' and one where they do because they didn't '____', then choose whichever one you think fits best.

That's it for today's tip. I got a request for world-building tips so I will be posting twice today but I hope this helps, and I will see you next month.

Happy writing!

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