The opening line of any novel is arguably the most important sentence in the entire story. There are many effective ways to start a story, and there are countless articles with advice on where to start. I’m including some pretty comprehensive guides here, here, and here.
There’s a reason why the beginning is so crucial. Without a hook to draw in readers, then people aren’t likely to stick around for the end. Here’s the flip side though: how many stories have you read that have ended on a disappointing low note? A good story builds tension and excitement throughout to the final conflict. However, building tension is a lot easier than coming up with a satisfying end. Describing a satisfactory conclusion is the ultimate pay off, but it’s also one the hardest parts of drafting the story. Here are a few of my personal favorite methods to end your story.
The happy ending – this is actually not a favorite of mine at all, but readers have come to expect that the characters they fall in love with throughout your story will have a satisfying ending, comparable to what we see coming out of Hollywood.
The tragedy. Now this absolutely is one of my personal faves. How many stories end happily in real life? Life is hard, and I like my stories to reflect those difficulties. I love the struggle and anguish.
The dream – this has become a pretty big cliche in recent storytelling. The reader gets invested in characters and events that technically never happen. When stories that I’ve enjoyed turn out this way, I usually feel pretty bitter. It has the ability to be a clever way to explain some pretty outlandish plots, but at this point it can also be super predictable.
The cliffhanger – I’m going to describe a couple different ways that cliffhangers can be successful endings.
One: leading into the next entry in a series.
Two: leaving the story with an open ending for the reader to interpret. This one is a lot more difficult to do effectively, but when executed properly, it can be a thing of beauty. Each reader then has the ability to interpret the events in their own way, kind of making them part of the creative process. They get to decide how they subconsciously want the story to end, even though it could be completely different from somebody else who read the exact same story.
Lastly, I’ve seen some novels that just end in mid-sentence. This can be super frustrating for a typical reader who needs to have that resolution. If not done well, it can come across as a total cop-out. It could appear that the author couldn’t think of anything good, so they just stopped writing. And of course, the initial reaction is “where’s the rest of the story? Did I get a defective copy?”
As with anything, when executed properly, these can each be a thing of beauty. At the same time though, without adequate planning, each one of these can also turn into a train wreck and be unsatisfying for your readers. A little bit of planning to figure out what works best with your story goes a long way.
Thank you, that is a