The End

Endings are one of the trickiest scenes for writers to do well. There’s usually so much to wrap up, and we want to stay true to our story without making our readers feel gypped. Plus, reader expectations are usually sky high, so it’s hard not to disappoint.

I’ve heard people say the end doesn’t really matter to publishers because, by then, the book has already sold, but endings can make or break the book from a reader’s perspective. For me, Mockingjay was a *thud* ending to The Hunger Games series, and I wasn’t all that thrilled with the epilogue in Harry Potter either.

A lot of blog threads focus on what to do and what not to do, but the challenge is there’s such a wide variety of endings — happy, sad, serious, funny, etc. I thought we’d take a slightly different approach. With examples!

Below are two of my favorite endings, based on
1) my satisfaction after reading that last page,
2) how well it fit with the rest of the book,
3) timelessness – will I look back years from now and still remember it as a great ending?

I’ve included comments about what works for me and why:

Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Mother of us all, he was glad that now, of all times conceivable, he, F'lar, rider of bronze Mnementh, was a dragonman of Pern.
It's such a triumphant moment. The danger hasn't passed, the trouble hasn't all been solved, but you know without a doubt the characters are in this fight for the long haul and refuse to be defeated. It makes me want to pump my fist in the air and say "bring it on!"
And it definitely makes me want to pick up the next book right away.
The Far Pavilions, M.M. Kaye
They rode out together from the shadows of the trees, leaving the Bala Hissar and the glowing torch of the burning residency behind them, and spurred away across the flat lands toward the mountains...

...and it may even be that they found their Kingdom.

I love this ending! These two characters have been through hell for almost 1200 pages. If you think you've seen characters put through terrible situations...believe me, Ash and Juli went through worse. From the very beginning of the book, there's been a theme of the mountains as a symbol of hope. Ash's step-mother told him a fable about a secret kingdom in the mountains when he was very young and they were on the run.

I love two things in particular about this ending:

1) The cinematic exit. In one sentence we get imagery of rider silhouettes through the trees, against the backdrop of a burning villa, and then the stark beauty of the north Indian landscape. I would so LOVE to see this on the big screen.

2) The hope. Even more than the imagery, I love that the author gives these two characters a chance at rest and a peaceful life together. It's not a promise. That would have been too strong for this book. A chance at happiness is more fitting. And that's why I love the author's choice.

What are some of your favorite endings?


  1. I do want satisfaction. It doesn't have to be a happy ending, but an unhappy ending better have a compelling reason.

  2. It's funny, the only time I dwell on a book ending is if I hate it. Otherwise, I don't really remember specifics lol. Thankfully, I haven't read too many that have been awful. But I do agree about the last Harry Potter book!

  3. I was JUST thinking about this last night as I finished re-reading Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, one of my favorite books of all time. Even if a book pulls you in from page one, the ending is what the reader is left with. It clinches the deal!

  4. Endings are completely hard for me. You don't want to rip off your readers, but you don't want to drag them down either. That's been the complaint I've received. "The ending is too long." I've gotten better, but like everything, it's a balance. :)

  5. That is so true, endings are always so hard! I think they are so important in books, because I can forgive a bad beginning if the ending is amazing, but if the ending is bad, it doesn't matter how good the rest of the book is I will always remember it as being bad. I kind of hate writing endings because it means I have to leave my book alone, and I always worry that it won't live up to readers expectations.

  6. I always have difficulty writing endings, even though I know how the book will end before I start writing. It's knowing the exact point to stop, when it'll leave the reader with the most satisfaction, that I find tricky. I'm not a fan of abrupt endings (I was disappointed with the ending to Mockingjay, too), but I don't like it when they're dragged out either.

  7. Oh goodness. I love writing endings. I'm SO much better at writing endings than beginnings. Which, of course, is a terrible shortcoming. No one ever gets to them!

    Love both of these :) Thanks for sharing!

  8. I'm like you. I prefer all the characters dead unless there's a justifiable happy ending. :-)

  9. I really, really struggle with writing a satisfying ending. I tend to want to put a big bow on everything and deliver it like a beautiful gift, but it usually ends up looking like something a four year old would wrap. Blah. But like you said, a great ending to a book can make up for a lot of rough patches along the way. A good ending will make you forgive just about anything.

  10. My favourite endings are the ones that leave me searching the book vainly for more pages, in the hope that that wasn't actually the ending. But I think that's a product of a really good novel, not necessarily a really good ending. Endings are hard.

    1. Me too! And if it's a series, it makes me go out immediately to buy the next one. ;)

  11. For me one of the most important things to me is that the ending answers all the questions the book has raised. I DO NOT like unanswered questions. In my opinion, if you weren't going to answer a question you shouldn't have made me ask it to begin with. I just find that annoying. That's why I think the Harry Potter books were some of the most satisfying books I've read recently. I can't think of any questions that I was left wondering about.

  12. Once we've figured out *when* to stop our story--and you know how hard that can be, especially if you're enjoying writing it--knowing exactly how to end it can be hard. I want to leave the reader feeling satisfied that the ending was appropriate. That the wording doesn't sound rushed (as if I wanted to get those last few sentence done so I can get on with revisions, querying, etc.). While it's true there's not as much pressure with the ending because by that time, the reader's already read your book, you want to get it right because the end is the last thing your reader will read of your work. A bad ending can mar an otherwise beautifully-written book: it's the last thing on the reader's mind when s/he closes the cover.

    Yes, endings deserve as much attention as the rest of the book. And they always bring a smile when they're done well. Great topic, Nicole! :)

  13. I loved the way The Giver ended even though a lot of readers didn't. I liked the fact that the reader had to use her imagination as opposed to being told exactly what happened. My daughter, by the way, loved how The Hunger Games series ended. :)

  14. On a complete aside to this blog post, I've nominated your blog to be part of the Liebster Blog Award. Details on my blog. Come visit! =)

  15. I was talking about this with my husband the other day and he put it rather cleverly, I think: The ending of a book is the difference between a reader recommending your book, or simply putting it back into a shelf.

    I totally agree that endings are the worst nightmare for a writer and we never really know if we've hit the mark or missed it until the first reviews roll over. We just have to try our best...

    I've tagged you on my blog. It's for The Next Big Thing game where you tell us more about your most recent WIP. All the questions that you have to answer are on my blog. I hope you participate 'cause I really can't wait to learn about what's up your sleeve. ;)

  16. The last line or two are always the hardest for me. I want to end with something that sounds 'complete.' (If that makes sense.)
    I love The Far Pavilions!! I loved Ash and Juli. Such a good book. I love M.M. Kaye. I actually read her children's book The Ordinary Princess way before discovering her older works. It is still one of my favorite books ever. Have you read it?

  17. I was quite satisfied with the ending of harry Potter. But I'm with you on Mockingjay. The ending kind of killed the trilogy for me. And Breaking Dawn's ending was equally terrible. I really like the endings on Shutter Island and American Psycho.