Pat asked:

Hey Max, I am having difficulty with the end of my story. There are multiple characters in situations that need to be resolved, and while I have a good idea of what those resolutions will be, I am not sure just how to start. I don’t want to have a list of “and then X did this and Y did that”. Do I follow each character separately? Try to interweave them? How do I begin the end, knowing that it will likely take some time to get to a satisfying conclusion for all my characters? Thanks so much!

Hello Pat! Thank you for the question :D

Now, you (and anyone else reading) will find that I am going to be referencing this post (Let’s Talk About: Writing The Climax) so you may want to read it, it is one of my best replies and it works as the foundations to this answer. Also, I don’t mean to sound like a broken record— but thank you for sending this question in particular! Nobody ever asks about writing the end/climax so I really cherish questions like this~ ♥︎

So, with that out of the way, let’s tackle this bad-boy, okay?

As I mentioned in this post, to make a successful climax you need to have something at stake, and a payoff that echoes the reader’s emotional attachment. But what about the ending, though? Well, I think that the ending of your book should give the reader two things:

(More) Payoff and Closure.

Let’s tackle ‘em one by one c;

► (More) Payoff

Payoff is so, so, so important. Now that there is nothing else at stake (by which I mean that the main obstacle/threat has been taken care of), it is your job as the writer to make sure that there is a satisfying payoff to each and every of the plot-lines in the story✝. Like I mentioned in the other post, if you demanded a certain emotional attachment from your readers, you need to echo that in the payoff. You don’t have to give every side character and side plot their own epilogue (though, that will depend on your story). I will go into more detail in the next segment as to how to go about this, but for now know that you don’t ***have*** to put every side story in the spotlight, though you should give them a payoff in one way or another. It can be as little as a few lines showing that they have overcome their life-long fear, or them taking a moment of silence to consider the ones they lost during the final battle.

Of course, the one exception is when you may want to leave a certain element of the story open for interpretation or leave it open because you plan to expand on it in another book or a sequel. Though, if this is your plan you may want to consider giving a reader a clue so they are not left confused. The last thing you want is to get an email from someone asking you: “Hey what happened to that side-character? They just disappeared at the end! They were my favorite :(“

► Closure

Consider this the ribbon that ties the present. So, following that analogy, make sure to tie all of the loose ends in your story (or at least the ones you will not continue exploring in the next book). Now, some of you may say that this sounds too much like the previous advice— and that is because there is another clause to this bit.

Be very (very) careful of introducing any new threats or plot elements at the very end of your book.

We have all seen movies and read books that had a satisfying ending, until the last minute when they decided to set-up the story for a sequel. Suddenly all of the closure and payoff has been disarmed, and you feel as though you didn’t gain anything from the experience. I am looking at you Asura’s Wrath. True ending? More like Buy-The-Next-Game-Ending. I seriously enjoyed Asura’s Wrath UNTIL those very last 2 minutes that left a really bitter taste in my mouth :/

Again, I am not talking about setting up a sequel. Long series do often end in a cliff-hanger, and that’s okay, the difference is that your story needs a certain degree of closure (to wrap things up, if you may c;). Without it the readers will be left unsatisfied. Just remember how you felt after watching the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince for the first time.

Or if you want a more infamous ending, consider how the original Mortal Kombat movie ended :p Yeah we beat the badguy! Wait, no, there is another badder guy? Welp I guess the movie is over now. Okay.

► Putting The Pieces Together

Now that we have the theory down. How do we go about putting it together? Well, I know of a couple of ways c;

  • It’s Over. One way to end a story is to show the conclusion of the main arc, and only lightly touch the consequences of the story’s outcome. I personally don’t like these sort of stories, because I generally find that the payoff is basically non-existent and pretty much everything is left open to interpretation. Sometimes it works, Inception, and sometimes it does not work, The Last of Us.
  • Vignettes. You could take a moment to show how each of the main characters are affected by the end. It doesn’t have to be long, just meaningful enough to give the reader closure. This is also a good way to go about tackling side-stories. The trick for these is to focus on the change, as opposed to their actions. Show the reader how this character is now that they have completed their goal. Don’t tell us that the boy and the other boy finally got together— show us the two of them being in love.
  • Jump Forward (Or Moving Forward). Another way to show the reader how each character has changed is to jump forward in time. It DOES NOT have to be entire years or decades— it can be as little as a few hours after the final battle. You will find that once people have certainty (AKA the big dragon is dead) they quickly start sorting out their life. This is the type of ending scene that shows characters looking forward to the future. It does not tell the reader what will happen, but it gives closure by showing that they are on the right path.
  • The Reunion. This is pretty much the same as the previous, except that several years are skipped forward and it doesn’t leave things open, since we get to see the consequences of a character’s actions. We see how their dreams have changed. I know that this gets a lot of flak for being a cliche, but I think it is a very effective way to show growth c;

But, which one should you use? Well, that is something that only you can answer for yourself. Really, these are the ones I am familiar with— it is entirely likely that you could create yourown way to tackle the end. As I mentioned before, all you need to please your reader is to give them (More) Payoff and Closure. If you can give your readers that, then it does not matter how you do it.

If anything, this is the best part of writing as a medium— you can, and you should, play around and find what works for you & the story you’re working on!

I hope this helps! If you, or any other writerly friends, have any more questions I would love to hear them~ ♥︎

Thank you for the question, Pat! And doubly-thank you for pledging to my Patreon page! Thank you for directly supporting me, my books, and the awesome posts that you see on this blog everyday~ ♥︎

Interested in becoming a Patron? Head over to my Patreon Page where you will find information on the sweet perks that can be yours from as little as $1 dollar a month, least of which is my gratitude! ♥︎