Has this happened to you? You’ve found the perfect book, a true page-turner that you can’t put down. Happily you read until you come to the end, and… well, it’s awful, to put it nicely! And it completely ruins the book.
Recently my friend and fellow Humble Fiction Cafe (HFC) writers group member, Linda Lindsey, offered an outstanding class on endings. I couldn’t possibly go into all the details covered at that class, but I wanted to share with you the six common types endings we discussed in Linda’s class.
- Explicit ending – This is the ending that wraps everything up and answers all the questions. This ending will frequently tell what happens to each of the major characters, and is usually very satisfying in its completeness. Particularly well suited for novels (over short stories), when using this ending, it is especially important to watch for plot holes and missing clues. Example: Watership Down by Richard Adams.
- Implicit ending – If you like an ending that is strongly based on interpretation, then you like implicit endings. These endings are more common in short fiction. An example is The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clark.
- Twist ending – As the name implies, this ending is unexpected or twisted. As a writer, everything you’ve led your reader to believe gets thrown out at the end, and is replaced by a new revelation when well done. If done poorly, your reader will feel cheated. The TV show The Twilight Zone was known for it’s twist endings.
- Tie-back ending – This ending ties the end of the story back to clues planted in the beginning. The example provided in the endings class is the short story entitled The Star by Arthur C. Clark, where the story opens with what the main character’s conflict is and ends with why.
- Unresolved ending – In unresolved endings, the main conflicts are left unanswered, such as in The Lady, or the Tiger by Frank R. Stockton. The reader is left to ponder the outcome. Cliffhanger endings would also fall under this category.
- Long view ending – These endings tell what happens to the characters a significant timeframe into the future. An example is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, which ends telling who married whom, who had kids, etc. out into the future.
The other interesting detail I learned about endings is that in most genres, readers expect a happy ending. Exceptions are stories based on true events or horror. In looking over the stories I’ve written, I don’t always end on a happy note. While I don’t want to reveal the ending to Hope and Faith, I am curious to learn your take. Do you prefer stories with happy endings? What is your favorite type ending?