On Writing Well: Writing the Ending

For a lot of people, crafting conclusions is the hardest part of writing. Writers from all genres find endings harder to write than any other part of the work, and the dread is entirely understandable. After all, the conclusion is our last point of contact with the reader, and as writers, we strive to make that especially engaging and memorable.

Beyond the emotional implication of the endings, in the final section writers wish to leave a lasting impression on the reader. A good ending should also tie up the loose plot threads in a work of fiction, and evoke a sense of completeness in a non-fiction piece.

Here are some basic tips on writing the conclusive piece:

 

For fiction:

One of my favorite endings in fiction is from Gone with the Wind, where Scarlett O’Hara says: “Tara. Home. I’ll go home…. After all, tomorrow is another day.” In one short sentence, the author manages to say so much. In your fiction, don’t be afraid to end in a similar note, where you:

  • Evoke a larger image: Scarlett’s quote is larger than Scarlett herself. It brings up a sense of nostalgia, courage, optimism, and grace, all at once. It is an apt ending to a gorgeous novel.
  • End with dialogue or description: Using a quote or a description as an ending is extraordinarily satisfactory. Endings of these sorts are almost always charming and graceful, and leaves the reader feeling very fulfilled.

For non-fiction:

  • Point to larger implications: In a work of non-fiction, the conclusion is a great place to talk about the abiding influence of the thesis you present in your earlier text. This kind of ending is especially pertinent for academic writing.
  • Ask a question of the reader: Asking a provoking question of your reader is an engaging and memorable way to finish a piece.  It involves the reader in a non-threatening way, and often gets more response than other sorts of conclusions.  This form of ending is especially helpful for blogs, essays or online writings, where you’d like to get reader response by way of comments.

Image by shutterhacks on flickr

9 thoughts on “On Writing Well: Writing the Ending

  1. As long as I’m on HubPages I’m reading Pia’s blogpost On Writing Well. And I always look upon her as my mentor.

    If we follow Aristotle’s advice, opening, middle and ending all are very important aspects of writing.To me ending in a non-fiction looks easier than in fictional work. The ending has to make a lasting impression on readers mind. I think I’ll revise my work with these four points in my mind.

  2. Sometimes I feel my ending does not pack the punch I intended. Just today I finished a story and went to an elementary school to read it to students and added a couple of words at the last moment. Literally, I orally added them to the final sentence as I read.
    This information helps me a lot. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for these helpful suggestions on creating a more satisfying ending for our readers. With fiction I always find the first and last paragraphs the most challenging ones to write and usually end up re-writing them quite a few times before settling on the words I like best. I thought Hyphenbird’s example of creating a new ending on the “fly” while actually reading her story to students was cool. Sometimes the perfect words come to us in a flash of inspiration and when that happens I think it’s best to just go with the flow.

  4. Thanks – good advice. Goes beyond the formula for non-fiction of: “tell them what you are GOING to tell them, tell them what you WANT to tell them, then tell them what you just TOLD them.”

  5. You make very useful and truthful advice. The books I hate the mostis when they don’t tie everythingup in a nice package. Anne Tyler does this all the time. She ends her books with open-endings always wondering what happens toher characters. She had said in an interview once that she does it to show that life goes on. I personally think that its a sign of laziness.

  6. Thanks Vinaya: I look forward to your kind comments each time I write the blog! Thank you Gail, I promise you are not on your own – most writers find the beginning and ending of their pieces hardest to write.

  7. Hyphenbird – that’s awesome! James Halpin – I happen to love Anne Tyler, but I agree that her way of leaving the open ending is a task only for the great masters of fiction, which I think she is! For the rest of us, we really must tie up the loose ends!

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