Episode 145 – Ending Strong

It can be hard to write endings (So many logistics! So tired from writing the whole story!), but the ending is the thing that sends your reader off into the world feeling good about your story…or deflated because you let them down.

Paisley 10k Finishing Line

In this week’s episode I talk about the importance of endings, and a powerful way for you to think about them so you can delight your reader.

Also:  I talk about StoryADay’s writing prompts for November and my impressions of the 2019 edition of the Best American Short Stories anthology, edited by Anthony Doerr.



Mirror Mirror Writing Prompt

Penny For The Guy Writing Prompt

A writing prompts about openings & endings

The StoryADay Reading Room series

Browse the archive of 590+ writing prompts

[Writing Prompt] An Ending And A Beginning

It’s the end of the StoryADay May 2014 challenge.

But it is just the beginning of the rest of your writing life.

I hope the challenge this year has opened your eyes to how very, very creative you can be; to how well you can write; and how important it is to the world that you keep writing.

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming Revisions course and do keep in touch!

The Prompt

An Ending And A Beginning


Without wishing to sound like a motivational poster, the end of one thing leads to the beginning of something else. Write your story today in that moment of transition.

Will your character struggle with the idea of the ending, or be wildly excited about the new beginning? Will your character’s expectations be upset? By what?

Every stage of life has transitions. Some are expected (leaving school, getting married, starting a new job) and others come completely out of the blue (a death, the end of a friendship, a job offer, a pregnancy, someone else leaving home). Think about how this affects your character’s reaction.

Go to town on this story. Use everything you have learned this month about: how you write best, when you write best, what length works for you, what tone/style works for you, what kinds of characters speak to you most, the kinds of dialogue or description that you enjoy,  the use of suspense, beginnings, middles, ends, theme, character, conflict, action, the ways you’ve learned to get yourself into the writing zone… Everything you have worked on in your writing this month is a tool you can use in this story, today. Have fun. Let yourself go. Finish the story.

Get up tomorrow and keep writing.


AWOOOOOOOOOOHAAAAAA! We have reached the end of the month. Take a moment to let out a whoop of joy and accomplishment (if you finished even one story then you’re a winner in my book. But if you finished 31? I bow in awe!). Then leave a comment, write a blog, pop into the community. Share your joy. Share what you’ve learned. Share your frustrations. Make plans for the future. Tell us, tell us, tell us, and never stop writing!

Thank you for making this month and this challenge so utterly amazing. The world is a better place for having your stories in it!

[Writing Prompt] Ending With An Ending

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?

The Prompt

Write A Short Short Story, Concentrating On Writing A Strong Ending

The End


  • 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.


[Writing Prompt] Twilight Zone

I’ve been binging on Twilight Zone recently. Things I have noticed:

  • The stories often, but not always, have a twist at the end
  • The weirdness is not constrained by the need for an explanation (last night I watched “Living Doll”. The story was about a creepy talking doll. The ‘how’ was never explained, but the character exploration was priceless nonetheless)
  • No matter how mundane or unusual the setting, the stories are always rooted in character. The opening scene paints a broad-stroke picture of one trait we’re going to be observing in the main character, and then throw something new at them. From there we follow the character until the consequences of his encounter with that ‘something new’ plays out.
  • Endings are not always happy. And sometimes that’s just fine.

The Prompt

Write a story featuring someone with a strong (or problem) character trait.
Throw a wrench into their nice, everyday routine.
See what happens.
Don’t feel the need to explain the ‘how’ if something unusual is happening (i.e. talking dolls, houshold objects that activate themselves; out-of-body/time experiences). Just focus on what it means for your character.

Special Announcement

I don’t often do this, but this week I wanted to mention a special offer from a friend, Michael Stelzner. Michael is the driving force behind the the Social Media Success Summit. The summit has been running for a few years as an outgrowth of Michael’s copywriting summits and has become the headline event for anyone who’s anyone in social media and online marketing (Chris Brogan, Mari Smith, Michael Hyatt…).

I attended one of Mike’s copywriting summits a few years ago and it was more than worth every penny – i.e. I used what I learned to immediately earn back the price of admission times four.

If you are serious about making a name for yourself using social media, you should check this out. The 50% discount goes away on August 30, so don’t delay. (And yes, this is an affiliate link, so I get a kickback if you buy, but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t honestly think it’s great value for anyone looking to market themselves on social media.)

Important note: If you are still concentrating on building up your writing skills and don’t yet have anything to market, don’t get distracted. Don’t click on this link. Back to your writing, wordsmith!

[Prompt] May 31 – Best Friends and Endings

Today is the last day of StoryADay!.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had a blast – not just writing but meeting up with old friends and making new ones. And now the challenge is ending. So I decided to make the prompt celebrate both those things:

Write a Story Featuring Your Best Friend


Give It A Kick-Ass Ending

This can be a fictional version of your real life best friend, or it can be a story about best friends, but make us love the hero as much as you love your very best friend ever.

Put problems in her way, kick him when he’s down, then let him rise up towards a kick-ass, crowd-cheering, fist-pumping ending. Make us care and make us cheer. Imagine the best, funniest, more heart-warming, most satisfying ending you would want for your real-life bestie, and let your character live out the dream.


(But don’t forget to come back and for StoryFest,  to read a whole bunch of StoryADay short stories. Bring your friends!)