Ever read a book that just seems to stop in the middle of nowhere? It’s as if the author just ran out of things to say and then walked away from it. Weird.
It’s a common assumption. The writer simply stopped. That’s it. As an author, I can attest to a few other reasons why an author might not think to wrap up a story with some kind of orderly closure.
- The author doesn’t want to use a typical closure-styled ending
- The author isn’t aware of closure-styled endings
- The author isn’t aware that readers look for proper closures
- The original story was long and the author chopped off the excess
- The story was too short and the author added more text to it
The: “No Closure Endings For Me” author
Defiance is this author’s mantra. They blaze their own trails. Conformity is a filthy word. This means cliches and stereotypes are seen as signs of disgust and pure evil. Well-rounded closures are the work of the devil too. But it’s not always defiant writers who avoid them. Lazy authors are known to do it too.
Or the: “What Do You Mean by Closure?” author
Not every writer knows what closure is much less gets the method of writing one into a story. It doesn’t require intelligence to build a proper ending but it takes time and persistence to get one right. The trick is for the writer to put themselves behind the eyes and minds of the reader and then write from that place instead.
What about the: “Readers Don’t Actually Look For Closure” author?
Oh yes, they do.
It’s human nature to seek a nicely wrapped up story ending. It gives purpose to stories. Endings don’t have to conform to a “And they all lived happily ever after” or; “Love conquers all” or; “Good reigns supreme” structure, it just has to feel like a logical conclusion — to hand readers back to reality after being immersed in fiction. Readers like the wrap-ups to be nice and orderly.
“I Had To Cut it Down” Author
Enthusiasm drove this author. They gave birth to a giant. They discovered their baby weighed in at whopping 220k words and knew it needed to lose some pounds fast. Instead of reworking the entire book (let’s face it, we’re pretty much over it by that stage) to make things fit into 110k, they took the easy way out and chopped off the back end. This forced a sudden truncation to occur in the narrative causing readers to fall off a giant cliff.
“It Has an Ending But I Had To Add More To It” Writer
Some authors know exactly what they want in a story. The book writes itself. It’s a breeze but the story is over too soon. It’s short by 25k. Instead of padding it out and keeping the original ending in situ, this writer tacks on more stuff after it. This takes the story in a different direction and, if the author doesn’t pay due diligence to its new ending, readers will drop off it the very same way.
While writing my first novel, the word count changed many times but I was mindful of crafting an exceptional ending whatever that ending would become. At the time, I looked at the end game rather simplistically. Someone would get their comeuppance and someone else would sleep better at night. Eight years later, I changed my mind about that based on something I overheard in a bookstore.
A reader told a store owner that they chose their books based on the words written on their first and last pages.
This wasn’t the only time I heard that.
Eight years gave me time to hear opinions from everyone. Overhearing conversations in stores was best of all as I wasn’t the speaker’s intended audience. I heard raw accounts of readers’ book-buying habits by standing around the shelves. Thousands of dollars of valuable advice landed at my feet for free. All I had to do was shut up, listen, collect the information I heard and then interpret their results.
I think I figured it out.
Story endings should be written to suit two different audiences. The first satisfies general readers who expect story endings to be wrapped up in a nice, tight bow. The second caters to book buyers seeking purchase clues from the book before buying it. It’s further research. They want more than the synopsis yields.
I hear you. There’s more to selling books than writing so-called perfect endings — and this says nothing of titles, cover graphic/s, fonts, back cover synopsis, quality-of-narrative, story structure, distribution channels, agents, reviews, social marketing and such.
You’re right. It doesn’t. It wasn’t meant to.
Today, I’m talking about story endings. The focus of this post is purely on writing the closing pages of a book. How does any story finish properly? How should it end so that the reader lands safely back in the land of reality, comfortable in knowing they’ve enjoyed being entertained in fiction?
I wrote fifteen different endings to SEETHINGS, the last one was made to suit the formula mentioned above. Given the book’s dark genre and the creepiness of its narrative, I wrapped it up with an unsettling hook. Its story resolves itself but the character’s futures are in doubt. An uneasy status quo looms between right and wrong.
There’s also one small piece of the puzzle that’s been left out of its conclusion. I did that on purpose. It’s designed to frustrate …and it’s meant to do it in a big way.
There’s salt left on this piece of bread.
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer specialising in taking lightning pictures may be the only witness.
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