Are you sure?
That may seem like a silly question, but I wouldn’t it if I hadn’t read stories that weren’t really finished. There’s nothing more frustrating that a book with a bad ending, but what exactly makes up a good ending? Who knows – there are no concrete guidelines for one. Still frustrated?
You could call it frustrating, or you could call it liberating. You don’t have to have a happy ending. You don’t have to have a complicated ending. What you need to do is wrap up this particular portion of the main character’s life so the reader leaves with a sense of completion.
I asked a few writers what they think about good endings, and here’s what I heard:
Do you remember the book Christy? I loved that ending. It wasn’t all flowers and happy, happy, but you knew he (Doc) knew the Lord and that Christy was in love with him and would marry him. I don’t like endings up in the air. – Diane Dean White
A good ending is a satisfying ending. The major loose ends are tied up. The bad guy does not win. It can be a sad ending but it must satisfy the reader. And I would think that means something different for every book. (There are never any easy answers!) – Sharon Lavy (This makes me think of Lord of the Rings – I cried when Frodo left, but I understood his decision.)
There’s no absolute rule. BUT (and I always have a big but) it should be satisfying. It doesn’t have to be happy, but it has to be right. And be sure you tie up any loose ends. 🙂
For instance, in Gone With the Wind, the end isn’t necessarily happy. Scarlet’s lost the one she finally realized she loved, but she kept the land. It’s right. It leaves the reader with hope, too. But there aren’t any loose ends lying around.
It needs to be organic to the book, meaning right for your characters. – Ane Mulligan
The one possible exception to the rule …
Some stories, serials mainly, don’t tie up all the loose ends. They leave you guessing about what comes next. – Tina Pinson (A great example of this is The Empire Strikes Back – all of the main issues are resolved, BUT … Han is in carbonite and taken away. Will they ever see him again? Stay tuned!)
When it’s time to end your story, take a good look at your characters and figure out what’s right for them (a shy, quiet girl won’t all of a sudden rock the karaoke stage unless you give the reader a REALLY good reason – make sure it fits). Don’t leave any plot lines hanging (satisfy the reader, even if it’s a series). It doesn’t have to be happy, but give the reader some home (think The Vow).
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite endings, and why?