Writing a great beginning and a tight middle for a short story or novel can be challenging, but many writers find creating a satisfying ending is often the most difficult part of the process. You don’t want to cheat readers with an abrupt wrap-up, but you also don’t want to drag on past the best stopping point or end things in a way that’s unrealistic. Before you type “The End,” check out this list from Writer’s Relief of 5 ways you might ruin the ending of your short story or novel—so you know what NOT to do!
How To Ruin The Ending Of Your Short Story Or Novel
Deus ex machina: Meaning “a god from the machine,” this is when something completely unexpected comes out of nowhere to save the day. The rest of your story should build up to a resolution that makes sense and follows the actions of everything that comes before it—so if your only way of creating a resolution is to have something or someone jump in from out of the blue to tidy up the mess you’ve made throughout your story, you might want to go back to the drawing board and work on your plot a bit more.
Clichés: While clichés aren’t automatically bad, resorting to a clichéd ending might leave your reader feeling cheated. Readers enjoy originality, so avoid using an outright cliché ending like “it was all a dream.” If you do want to have a “twist ending” that’s a bit of a cliché, be sure to put your own unique spin on what happens.
No resolution: Your ending doesn’t have to wrap up every loose end in a tidy bow—you can leave some things open or ambiguous. But if you don’t offer ANY kind of resolution, your readers will be frustrated. It will seem like you didn’t know how to end the story, so you abruptly stopped.
Drag out the ending: On the flip side, if you drag your resolution out for pages and pages, you may need to do some heavy editing. If the actual ending of your story happened several paragraphs ago, there’s no reason to keep writing. Readers will lose interest in a long, drawn-out ending, and everything your story built up to will be forfeited.
Betray your characters: Be sure you stay true to your characters and who they’ve become over the course of your story. Don’t make them act in ways that are completely out of character just to move the plot in the way you want it to go. A good, satisfying ending stays true both to the characters and the plot.
Writing the very best ending for your story or novel will make the difference between readers finding your work disappointing or memorable. There’s nothing worse than ruining what could be a well-crafted story with a cookie-cutter or lazy ending. Avoid the pitfalls of the list above, and your ending will be off to a good start! For tips on how to write a great ending, check out our article: 9 Ideas For Short Story Endings: How To Get From Here To There.
Question: What story do you think has the best ending?