To end right we need to begin right, with a story question, which creates anticipation for the outcome all though the reading experience. One that will not be easily answered, but has a desirable conclusion that can be hoped for and cheered for all the same. Also, for non-fiction, those nuggets of wisdom that build and hopefully expand the readers understanding and tools to do life well are not easily ended, all the time.
Story Question – Main character’s question is what readers see in the story. (example: Will I get justice? Will I win the love of my life? Or for non-fiction writers: Will I plan my vacations like an expert? Will I feel closer to God? Will I understand people better?) We writers want readers to know the story question, so that they can enjoy the emotional roller coaster that keeps them reading—till the very end! This question must be simple and believable and achievable, yet difficult to secure.
Unless you write 007 type fiction—your character changes—however, usually, they are stronger or better as they overcome the lie that bound them at the beginning of the story. What if you write non-fiction? Will your ending matter? Most how-to books and inspirational works seem to begin with the lesser skills and increase in information and vision toward the end. Yes writer, endings do matter, whether you write fiction or non-fiction! What can we do to strengthen our endings and therefore benefit our readers, while extending an invitation to our future writings?
Donald Maass states that last lines need the same amount of effort to create as first lines. He suggests using wit, poetic line or a sense of dawning peace. All of those techniques trigger emotional chemical response from our brains. But that was a different teaching, let’s move on.
Endings are often difficult to write once the crisis has happened and the story is on the down-swing—or concerning non-fiction, all the pertinent information has already been shared—this is why I’m teaching this lesson. When that natural concern about what will happen—has happened what can we do to make those last pages shine? Once the message you had for your reader has been delivered how can you wrap up that needed ending?
Examples: The Wedding Dress by Rachel Haulk, A Quarter For A Kiss by Mindy S Clark, Blur by Steven James and many others end strong. Yet there are excellent writers who begin exceptionally well and dither out at the ending; limiting their final words to checking off the threads they shared throughout the story. That is needed, but is it memorable? Is there take-away for the reader?
Excellent endings bring elements to the story that literally get the chemicals in our brain firing. Look at the following movies: War Room, Courageous, Hidalgo, Tomorrowland, and Secondhand Lions, just to name a few. There are elements in these endings that readers/watchers expect and connect with. We observers come away empowered and feel like we could be better people; our minds are focused on courage, sacrifice, unconditional love, can-do-it spirit! Who didn’t walk away from War Room and not want to make a prayer list closet to begin interceding?
I’ve been rewriting my closing scene for my contemporary novel and decided that the ending puttered out. Why? I did the check-off for all loose threads and wrote a scene, but it didn’t have the same quality writing that I shared in the beginning of my story. It didn’t have the emotional take away that would benefit the reader.
So, what could I do to improve? I decided to look at the books on my overburdened shelves! LOL! True. I’m checking out endings to both historical and contemporary and non-fiction works to see what they have in common. Of course, not every book has the same interesting ending elements. Some have humor, a secret the character still wants to keep from the populous, gratitude on how something well fought for turned out. Also, I noticed some have a bookend ending, which is: something stated is repeated or the character is at the same location where the story began, but with victory that tugged at my heart strings and got my mind buzzing. It is vital that we end in the same excellence that we begin with and that we provide the best message that will benefit the reader. Isn’t that why we write? No, I don’t find it easy to end well. It is all too easy to putter out. Even well published authors do yield to the get it over with check list. But do you want to offer that kind of quality to your readers?
Read last page of Audacious by Beth Moore & Revelation 22:12 - 21
CHECK LIST FOR ENDINGS:
Words are not just words. They are thoughts and inspiration that have been behind every relationship and every deed--good or bad throughout time. If you have that burning desire to communicate and explore, come peruse my pages, teaching, and short stories. Allow inspiration to anchor your dreams on the written pages of memoirs, devotions, poems or stories, both short or long! Luxuriate in the creativity you were born to share!