This week we’ve practiced starting with a character, progressing through the middle, approaching the climax, writing the climax. Now that September is drawing to its end, don’t you think it’s time to work on our endings?
Write A Short Short Story, Concentrating On Writing A Strong Ending
- Short stories have to end. You can’t just stop writing because you get tired and tell yourself you’re being ‘literary’. Even ambiguous endings have structure and purpose, when they’re well done.
- You can tie everything up in a bow if you want. Answer all the questions, tell us who ends up with whom, whether or not the changes the character underwent in the story are permanent. Serve your reader their dessert, clear the table, stack the dishwasher, wipe the surfaces. The risk with this ending is that your reader will be insulted and left on the sidelines. Use a light hand. Give us the detail we need but don’t belabor it and remember to involve our emotions.
- You can leave the ending ambiguous. Let the character act to answer a central question, but don’t tell us what choice they made. Let the reader decide. This is particularly effective if you have set up a big moral question for your character, or a life-changing choice. Let your character walk out of a door, or pick up a pen, or turn the ignition…You risk leaving your reader unsatisfied, but as long as all the other questions in the story are answered, you may be able to get away with having your character ride off into the sunset, leaving your reader to decide (based on what they have come to know of him during the story) what he’s riding off to do.
- Give us a twist. As long as the twist is logical and not too much of a cliche, go ahead and surprise us. Twists can be sad or funny or sweet, but to be satisfying, they must not introduce any new information — no sudden new characters or magical fairies swooping in to save the day. Just something you have withheld or hidden. Think: O. Henry, Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense. Your reader should be able to go back over the story and see all the elements that made the twist ending possible.