After spending weeks, months, or even years crafting your story, it all boils down to one crucial moment—the ending. This is where you tie up all the loose ends and bring everything to a close. No pressure, but if you don’t get this right, it might feel like all your hard work was for nothing. But hey, no need to stress too much.
A memorable ending is essential because it stays with your audience long after they leave the movie theatre or switch off the TV. It should make sense and evoke emotions, whether it’s satisfaction, anger, happiness, or sadness. A good ending also reveals how your main character has evolved throughout the story; if they remain unchanged, your tale might lack character development.
Your story’s conclusion should offer a fresh perspective or prompt viewers to consider new ideas. While it shouldn’t leave them overly confused (though some stories intentionally do that), it should transport your characters to a different place, even if it turns out to be a bit of a surprise. Keep reading to discover the six best ways to bring your story to an end.
6 Types of Story Endings
Stories end in different ways, and there are six main types of endings. The type of ending you choose depends on your story and the kind of genre you’re working in, if you’re following any specific rules for that genre.
- Resolved Ending: This type of ending neatly ties up all the loose ends and questions in the story. Readers get a clear sense of closure and satisfaction.
- Unresolved Ending: In this ending, some questions or issues in the story are left open or unanswered. It leaves readers with a sense of curiosity and speculation.
- Expanded Ending: Here, the story goes beyond its main plot, providing additional information or insights into the characters’ futures. It adds extra details to conclude the narrative.
- Unexpected Ending: This ending takes readers by surprise. It deviates from the anticipated resolution, keeping the audience on their toes.
- Ambiguous Ending: An ambiguous ending leaves certain aspects of the story open to interpretation. Readers are left to decide what might happen next.
- Tied Ending: This ending brings the story full circle by connecting back to its beginning. It creates a sense of symmetry and completeness.
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What is a Resolved Ending?
A resolved ending means that there are no more questions or things left unfinished in a story. This kind of ending is common in fairy tales, where it’s often said, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Many classic novels also have resolved endings.
Take the ending of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for example. It’s a famous book that inspired many romance stories. In the end, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy get married, and we believe they will have a long and happy marriage. The other daughters in the Bennet family also find suitable matches. So, there are no more questions or problems left in the story.
It’s important to know that a resolved ending doesn’t always mean a happy one. Think about Shakespeare’s tragic plays where the main characters usually end up hurt or killed. What matters most in a resolved ending is that all the parts of the story are clearly and satisfyingly finished.
What Is an Unresolved Ending?
An unresolved ending happens when a story doesn’t give all the answers at the finish. It’s like reaching the end, but there’s still a mystery. This type of ending can make readers curious and maybe a bit frustrated, but it can also be exciting if the story wants to keep you guessing.
Authors often use unresolved endings when they are writing a series of books. The goal is to make readers want to find out what happens next. J.K. Rowling did this in the Harry Potter series. Each book left some questions unanswered, making people eager to read the next one. So, an unresolved ending is like a teaser, inviting readers to continue the adventure in the next part of the story.
What is an Expanded Ending?
An expanded ending is like a bonus chapter called an epilogue. It goes beyond the main story and shows what happens after the main events. This usually means jumping ahead in time and sometimes seeing things from a different point of view. A famous example is the ending of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Tolstoy’s War and Peace—they both have these extra chapters. Just like a surprising ending, an expanded one can make the reader see the story in a new way.
One good thing about epilogues is that they let the writer answer questions that couldn’t be answered during the main story. For example, they can tell us what happened many years later, after the main events took place. This way, readers get to know more about the characters’ lives even after the main part of the story is over.
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What Is an Unexpected Ending?
An unexpected ending is when the ending of a story surprises the reader. It can be a big shock or a clever and sneaky surprise. The key to a great surprise is that when you look back, it should make sense. Most people don’t like an ending that feels like it just came out of nowhere. But if the ending is logical, readers are more likely to enjoy the clever tricks and plot twists that led up to it.
A good ending doesn’t use a “deus ex machina,” which is a fancy Latin way of saying “god from a machine.” In stories, a deus ex machina is when a sudden and unnatural event solves all the problems. For example, if a rich uncle who was never mentioned before suddenly appears and gives the main character a lot of money, it might be surprising, but it won’t satisfy the readers. It’s important to remember that a good surprise ending is one where the writer drops hints throughout the story, so it feels like a natural part of the plot.
What Is an Ambiguous Ending?
An ambiguous ending is when the conclusion of a story is not clear and can be understood in different ways. Unlike an unresolved ending, which leaves the reader without enough information about what happens next, an ambiguous ending allows two readers to have completely different opinions about what happens. Among all the types of endings, the ambiguous one requires the most thinking from the reader, as they are actively encouraged to consider the meaning of events on their own.
Let’s look at the ending of Charles Dickens’ famous book, Great Expectations. In the final lines of the novel, the main character Pip holds the hand of the widow Estrella and says he sees “no shadow of another parting from her.” However, can we trust Pip’s vision? Do they stay together, or is there another separation in their future? The novel presents the reader with two intriguing possibilities, leaving it open for them to imagine what might happen next.
What is a Tied Ending?
A tied ending is one that closes the story by going back to where it began. It’s like completing a full circle. This kind of ending is often seen in the Hero’s Journey, a pattern found in many myths and folktales worldwide. It’s also a popular choice in literary fiction, reflecting the repeating nature of time. For instance, James Joyce’s complex Finnegan’s Wake concludes with a sentence fragment that finishes the very first sentence of the novel.
As a writer, it’s crucial to ensure that the path leading to this ending feels worthwhile. Going back to the starting point may seem meaningless if the journey there and back lacks significance. In essence, a tied ending aims to provide a sense of completion and connection to the story’s beginning, creating a satisfying and meaningful narrative experience for the reader.