6 Most Effective Ways to End a Story

The different ways to end a Short story

Ending a story can be an excruciating and frustrating experience. We all want that perfect conclusion, one that complements and fulfils the purpose of the story. We especially want an ending that leaves ourselves and our audience satisfied. Achieving this is not as easy as it sounds; an ending takes on a lot of gravity when you realise there’s no coming back once it’s done.

Write the Perfect Ending: 6 Ways to Satisfy Readers

6 Most Effective Ways to End a Story

1. Resolved ending

A resolved ending is great if you want everything neatly packaged and put away.

All the plotlines and character threads are concluded. There’s no conjecture and no questions to be asked. The fate of everyone in the story is known and it is clear how the characters might live on into the future. This is good if you are writing a singular novel or concluding a series.

Examples that immediately come to mind are mysteries. Despite the bulk of a mystery novel being clouded in suspense and confusion, everything is illuminated for the reader at the climactic end of the story.

Usually, one or more people unravel the mystery and expose the culprit or cause of distress.

Effective Ways to End a Story

2. Unresolved ending

This is basically the opposite to a resolved ending. The overarching plot is left unfinished and the ultimate outcome of the characters’ story arcs is unknown based on the textual information.

This might be used to entice readers to use their imagination and create their own ending, satisfying themselves.

More commonly, it’s used to set up for a sequel. References are usually made to tasks still to be done or conflicts still to be determined, essentially making the book one big chapter of a larger story.

Obviously, this is one of the easiest endings to write. Readers understand nothing has to be wrapped up here, but it’s still vital to create a sense of excitement and anticipation using an unresolved ending, otherwise people may not be interested in coming back for the second instalment.

Effective Ways to End a Story

3. Implied ending

This is often the most tempting ending for an author and the most frustrating for a reader.

The conclusion, or ‘what happens in the end’, isn’t explicitly stated or displayed. This is achieved by holding back information or leaving multiple logical explanations up in the air, allowing the reader to make up their own mind.

The audience is refused a fully informed outcome. They may be left thinking a range of questions:

  • ‘Did he or didn’t he?’
  • ‘Is she alive or dead?’
  • ‘Is it that or is it this?’
  • ‘Is the narrator lying or telling the truth?’

This ending is very effective because it creates a talking point and keeps the reader pondering long after they’ve put down the book. For an author, this is ideal; if readers are thinking about you, they’ll likely go looking for more of your work.

Effective Ways to End a Story

4. Twist in the tail

In theory, a story that ends in this way catches the audience by surprise with a completely unexpected turn of events.

As a result, the whole story is usually turned upside down, with a previously believed fact turning out to be false.

This may involve a character ‘coming back’ from the dead, a hero revealing themselves as a villain (or vice versa), or a new and vital piece of information coming to light at the last minute.

A ‘twist’ ending is good for playing with readers’ emotions. You can bring them up quickly or send them crashing down, depending on what route you decide to take with your story. Either way, you can cause a dramatic shift in a reader’s attitude.

Queen Bee Tieback | Anthropologie UK

Effective Ways to End a Story

5. Tie-back

To put it simply, a story written in this fashion will begin and end in the same way. The ending is revealed first before the author fills in the details of how that ending came to be. While this may take away some of the suspense for a reader, a clever author is still able to introduce twists and surprises.

A tie-back ending also allows for a very focused method of writing – it’s always easier to navigate if you know where you’re going, right?

It also creates a feeling of balance and equilibrium for the story.

Effective Ways to End a Story

6. Crystal ball

This conclusion goes ‘beyond the ending’ in a way, looking into the future.

It explains what happens to the characters years after the main events of the story.

Authors and readers alike may think they want this ending – understandably, they want to see more of their favourite characters – but most of the time, it may not really be necessary.

A common way of writing a ‘crystal ball’ ending is with an epilogue.

Effective Ways to End a Story

To wrap it all up,

Always remember what you set out to achieve and consider the feelings you want to leave with your audience. Last impressions are just as important as first impressions.

6 Most Effective Ways to End a Story

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