Writing a book is difficult, but crafting an ending that is both impactful and wraps the plot up beautifully is even more so.
You worked hard to create a beginning that grabbed your readers, so make sure to write an ending that lives up to the rest of your story. Relying on clichés will only leave your readers feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.
Stay away from these four cliché endings:
1. The happily ever after
What it is: All of the characters in your book live happily ever, with no hardships to bear. The hero defeats his foes and all of the plot twists are nicely tied up – perhaps a little unrealistically.
Why to avoid it: Life doesn’t necessarily end happily ever after, which makes this type of ending feel disingenuous. You want your readers to feel enthralled with your book so that they’ll want to share it with friends, read more of your work or even re-read your story. Real life isn’t perfect, so make sure that your book stays in the realm of realism.
2. The drawn-out dream
What it is: The drawn-out dream ending involves the main character waking up safe and sound in their bed, realizing that the entire plot has just been a dream.
Why to avoid it: This type of ending typically annoys readers, who feel that the author has copped out. A book should be emotional to everyone involved, and an author who uses this ending seems to betray readers’ trust and cheapen the emotions they’ve felt throughout the book.
3. The guilty hero’s monologue
What it is: When the hero finally defeats the bad guy or force, the reader is privy to her internal thoughts of regret or remorse. The monologue is supposed to show the character’s guilt at what she’s had to do and how it’s eating away at her. Even though the ending is happy, our hero must now live with the blood on her hands.
Why to avoid it: In general, writers should strive to show, not tell, readers what is happening in the book. By strongarming readers into feeling specific, manufactured emotions, you are taking away their freedom to experience the story in a way that is reflective of their background and experiences. Readers may feel they are being led to specific conclusions, and few enjoy the feeling of an author holding their hand throughout a book — especially the ending.
4. The lover’s life
What it is: This is a special twist on the happily ever after ending, in which the main character falls in love, sometimes for an unexplained or random reason. It shows that true love makes the world go ‘round and that all that happened in the course of the story was worth it.
Why to avoid it: Unrealistic endings tend to annoy readers. If a love interest is too sudden, it isn’t all that real. If it is unexplained, it leaves your characters lacking depth. The truth is that not everyone falls in love and lives happily ever after. The best endings are unique, somewhat realistic, and really make your readers think.
Set the text aside, brainstorm some unique possibilities, and pick up your manuscript again when you have a more interesting picture of what could be.
If you want to learn how to finish a story the right way, check out our guide here.
What other cliché endings did we miss? What frustrates you at the end of a great story?