Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Write the End of a Novel

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by. C. Patrick Schulze

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When I finished my first MANUSCRIPT , low those many years ago, I hit the enter key a few times, center aligned my text and typed, "The End." The problem? I'd completed my novel but not my story. I had yet to learn how to write the ending to a NOVEL, and didn't realize it doesn't matter how your novel ends as much as where it ends.

Yes, to finish a novel is one trick, but to end your story is quite another. There are certain aspects to the ending of your novel that should be taken into account before you stop writing. For example, have you used one of the four unacceptable endings?

As to endings, I've found five general types, though I'm certain others would disagree with my evaluation. The ending types I've discovered are:

The hero gets what he desired and ends up happy.
The hero gets what he desired but is not happy about it.
The hero does not get what he desired but is happy about it anyway.
The hero does not get what he desired and is unhappy about it all.
The hero finds his original goals were flawed and now doesn't care if he attains them or not.

Do you see other potential endings?

Now for some tips on how to write the end of a novel.

  1. Make it satisfying to the reader. That is, the good guy wins and the bad guy loses.
  2. Tie up all those proverbial loose ends.
  3. Give your reader enough information so they know the story is over.
  4. Make the ending logical and see that it flows from the preceding parts of the book.
  5. Ensure your ending delivers as much emotion as did the beginning and middle.
  6. With that in mind, make certain your reader feels the same emotions as your hero.
  7. Draw it naturally from your characters' personalities.
  8. Give your reader enough information to envision your characters' futures.
  9. Have your hero solve his own dilemmas.
  10. Resolve all subplots before you end.
  11. Finish with as strong a sentence as you started.
To create that resounding ending you might try these tricks. Create a link between your story and larger issues of life. Think only the strong survive or justice for all. You might have your final sentence reinforce the theme of your story. For example, you may have your love interest tell the hero she'll love him forever, regardless his flaws. You might have your last sentence explain the title or maybe have it restate your first line. Any of these techniques can close a story well if the other aspects to your novel are in good order.

Now, as to those four unacceptable endings? They are:

An unknown character shows up to save the day.
A last minute conflict rears its ugly head but serves no purpose   other than to enhance the climax of your story.
You ignored an implied ending.
You end with a cliffhanger but don't have a sequel ready to go.

I'd like to answer one last question before I close. Must you write, "The End," or some other notation at the end of your novel? It's acceptable if you so wish. However, in my opinion, if you must write it so everyone understands the story is over, the story ain't over.

What ideas might you wish to add as to how to write the end of a novel?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. I think I accomplished everything with my ending - and avoided those bad endings, too.

  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJune 21, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Glad to hear your talents are in full bloom, Alex.


  3. Shouldn't that first sentence read, "lo those many years ago," not "low?"