In his book Plot & Structure,James Scott Bell has a great chapter on story endings. He writes about the different types of endings, including the twist or surprise ending.
In a way, all of our endings should incorporate surprise or the unexpected. We don’t want our stories to be so transparent that the reader can guess what comes next, eventually becoming bored with our story.
So how do authors come up with great twist endings? Bell admits he doesn’t know exactly as it’s not something that can be boiled down to a formula. But he does offer tips for helping us brainstorm possibilities. Read more
What do you want your readers to feel after turning the last page of your novel or memoir? I’ve been thinking about endings because I’m revising my memoir and want to make sure it measures up. Here’s what I’m using as my guide to create a satisfying conclusion.
A good ending:
Echoes or answers questions or ideas raised in the beginning. Every story is essentially a mystery that must be solved. Readers want to know that they will find the answer to the dramatic story questions by the time they reach the last page, even if the answers aren’t neat and tidy. City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff is one of my favorite books for the way the ending ties back to the beginning. Read more
“Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost.”
Thus begins Isabel Allende’s heartrending story of the death of her daughter, Paula, who suffered a seizure and fell into an irreversible coma when she was 26 years old.
Hoping that someday her daughter will be able to read her words, Allende began writing as Paula lay in a Madrid hospital. The author deftly weaves the story of her family history, her upbringing, and the history of her country, Chile, with the story of her daughter’s illness. Though Paula: A Memoir is a tragic story of the loss of her child, Allende turns it into a beautiful tribute full of lyrical, mystical, and sometimes humorous writing. Though we suffer with her over her child’s fate, and feel her pain, she eventually leads us to a place of transcendence.
Instead of ending her book with an artificial, tacked-on “happy ending” or a moralistic treatise on “what she learned” from her journey, Allende begins long before the end of the book to show us her turns. Read more
Each scene in your novel has a shape. The beginning is the set up. The middle is the rise of action with alternating beats. And then there’s the end of the scene which should have a little, or sometimes big, rise in tension.
Best-selling fantasy and sci-fi author, Nancy Kress, says that tension comes from two things pulling in opposite directions. The tension at the end of a scene could be something as small as a character’s thoughts conflicting with their actions. Or something as large as good vs. evil locked in immortal combat.
Kress says a rise in tension can be effected in several ways. Two specific ways are as follows: Read more