Last time we talked about story question and how that informs your ending. There are other things that need consideration where the ending of your story is concerned.
For starters (sorry, we’re talking about the ending here), what about threads? Please tie up at least a few of those threads. This helps satisfy readers. Don’t worry about tidying up everything. Readers know life goes on and questions are a part of life. But answer the biggies. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you make a big deal out of something in the story, show us how it turns out. I once read a book (unrelated to Pelican Book Group) where the heroine was really, really afraid of something she’d have to face. Then, she faced it and we never heard how it went. Please don’t do that to your readers. If it’s important enough to build tension around, show us the resolution.
Secondly, time things carefully. You don’t want the climax of the story to be too far from the ending. If it is, the ending will drag. If, in a romance, you have the H/h (hero and heroine) get together, but then you drag out a bunch of other threads, you’ll have an anticlimactic story ending. I’ve read published books like this. Rather dull to finish. I might be curious about those final threads, but if you’ve left five to tidy up, I lose interest rather quickly. I end the story feeling annoyed rather than jubilant from that great high point of your story. Instead, consider tying some of them up before the hero and heroine get together.
So, the key for knowing your ending is knowing your:
• Genre—this informs the story question as well as the climax of the story. Decide which genre you’re in and be faithful to it.
• Threads—verify which ones are key to tie up, and timing is everything. Prioritize and time their resolution well.
• Story Question—when you’ve answered it, your story is over. You can imply an HEA (happily-ever-after ending) in a romance by ending the story without a wedding. Now, some houses require a wedding, but here at White Rose, we just want an HEA ending. You don’t have to continue the story to give us a wedding. We don’t even require an engagement. Readers just want to know these two are going to be together.
• Character arc—this is key for reader satisfaction as well. Show us how the character is different at the end than s/he was at the beginning. This arc is key in romance as well as women’s fiction novels. If you’re writing a novella or novelette, don’t worry about having your character make a sweeping change. But some change is necessary, some growth.
A couple nights ago, my husband and I watched a movie. The story question was: would the rebellious teenager get his act together? When that question was answered, the story ended. He’d been changed, and the change had been tested. He was a different person. Once the audience was assured of this, the story was over.
What about your story? Have you answered the story question? Does your protag pass the test to show his/her change? How’s that ending coming?