Wednesday, June 22, 2016



It's never easy for writers to say good-bye to a world, to characters with whom we've spent years. Oh, sure, we can move on to other characters and other worlds, like the fickle friends we are, but making the shift is a little unnerving.

So . . . endings. They're not only a farewell, they're also feats of engineering, especially if it's the finale of a story arc. Here are three ways to end a story: Happy, tragic, bittersweet.

HAPPY ENDING: It's perfect for a fairy tale or a romance. It's more effective if the protagonist's journey has been perilous and dark: Snow White. Beauty and the Beast. Well, those you expect. The ending of the first True Detective series was a surprise. An unexpected happy ending after a very dark tale is almost subversive.

TRAGIC: Tragic endings are memorable. They can be either sad or horrifying. Romeo and Juliet. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Romances and fiction novels become more compelling with tragic endings. With horror, a shocking ending used to be standard, when the supposedly defeated monster would show up at the end.

BITTERSWEET: This was the ending I chose for The Night and Nothing series. A bittersweet ending works for dark stories and stories where the reader expects a happy conclusion: Peter Pan. John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. The film The Breakfast Club. Not many readers think beyond "And they lived happily ever after." And a tragic ending is too final. Bittersweet allows the story to continue in the readers' imaginations.

Tying up loose ends. Checking that all of your characters have been taken care of. Letting the theme of the tale echo. An ending is as important as the beginning, and we writers want it to haunt or delight our readers for days afterward.

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