Ending Your Novel
The Right Way
Novel Ending 101
Make damn sure everyone is there....
Okay, everything is in place for your smash-bang finish that represents the last few thousand words of your book - plus a lot of hard work bringing everything together.
This is crucial, so it goes right here at the beginning of this section. Every single one of your main characters needs to be present, no exceptions.
“I am not stupid. I know that!”
Oh, really? You would not believe the amount of times I’ve seen endings where major players are nowhere to be seen during the grand finale. Missing In Action.
Who knows, but I suspect the fact that many writers are more concerned with the sequel than they are with creating a good, satisfying ending to their novel.
Please, please, please…I can’t say it enough. Concentrate on the book in front of you. It needs to be a complete, self-supporting entity.
A sequel is nice, and continuing the adventure is fun, but the novel in front of you on that computer screen needs your full attention.
This is where you really show your reader that the novel they have invested their time in was worth the effort. Am I being overly dramatic? No, I don’t think so.
Your reader is a customer that purchased your product in good faith. They deserve value for their money, and the ending is where you give it to them.
A love finally realized? A gun battle to end all gun battles? An upsweep of emotions as main and minor characters win one for the good guys? The bad guy finally gets what he deserves?
No matter what your novel is about, it all comes together in the ending.
Enough of That Crap
Your ending should be exciting, witty, and with no rambling monologues - by you or your characters - that confuse the reader. Want to make a filibuster statement concerning the degradation of America?
Now is not the time to do that.
The ending is the time where all of that difficult detective work pays off, or your gunslinger meets his match. The ending is where the guy gets the girl - or vice versa. Where your heroes show their true grit and live up to their namesake as a hero.
I have read books that had no conclusion that I could detect.
I have read long, convoluted messages in the ending that I couldn’t fathom.
I, and this far exceeds everything else, have read books with an interesting premise, a great beginning…and then they went nowhere.
The biggest crime you can commit during your ending? Fail to live up to the promise you made to the reader. Fail to satisfy them. Fail to give them what they expect - a good, heartfelt closure to the novel they just spent their time and money on.
Your characters should exhibit some personal growth of some type. It doesn’t have to be a major change, as a matter of fact, the more subtle - the better.
This is something your reader very much wants to see. And they will notice if your hero, a snotty teen in dire need of a bitch slap at the beginning of your book, is still a snotty teen in dire need of a bitch slap at the end of your book.
Personal growth is also a matter of the heart. How does your hero handle the death of a fellow character? How does your hero grow as a person? How does your hero accept the changes forced on him or her?
Don’t ram some preachy lecture down anyone’s throat in your ending, that’s the last thing a reader wants. You don’t want your reader to be left with a bad taste in their mouth every time they see your follow-up novels.
Your reader isn’t stupid, so the threads you set up early in your book should tie together nicely - or better yet, with some humor - without you as the writer having to wave a giant white flag, screaming “Look at me! I’m a thread that came full circle!”
Be subtle, be smart, be funny. Most of the time, if you try for these things then the big emotional bang will come and plop itself right on your reader’s heart without even trying.
And you want that, trust me.
This is an excerpt from the final scenes in Tip of the Spear. The battle is over, Sabine Mellde and the forces for good have won the day….to an extent.
Vanessa Zhou, the human girl Sabine was sent to protect has died during the fight in Bideford.
I cried uncontrollably as my dad wrapped his arms around me. I took deep gulps of air, regarding the scene outside the broken windows in a detached way.
Russian angels and Heavy Air Recon had managed to send back nearly all of the Regiment Shock Troops, and the destroyer-escort had sunk at its moorings, engulfed in flames. The mighty airships were blackened aluminum frames - bent and nearly unrecognizable.
The shattered night grew quiet, just the crackle of fire and hot rounds popping off a few at a time breaking the silence. A cool ocean breeze began to lift the smell of cordite and cooked metal away, replacing it with the salty sea and calmness.
The battle was over, but I couldn’t summon the energy to care.
Sabine is back in Heaven at her parents’ house, taking a break from the heartache of losing her human friend, when she gets an unexpected call from God.
In the living room, I picked up the old Bakelite handset from the credenza and pressed it to my ear.
“Good afternoon, Father. What’s up?”
As I listened to what God had to say, a smile spread across my face.
And finally…our hero Sabine is reunited with her friend Vanessa.
I walked across the lawn to my old haunting grounds, right up to the very spot Sixten Mellde had found me a thousand years ago. It felt good to be here, and it felt even better to be back in my uniform, armed and dangerous. I had needed a break, but enough was enough.
Wow, I thought to myself. So much had occurred since then, and so much of the adventures had been completely unexpected. I’d learned to be a warrior, a daughter, and a friend. I owed it all to my dad, who’d taught me to love and to fight for what was right.
I intended to repay that debt.
Vanessa was gardening by herself away from the children playing in the backyard. She had planted a small plot of flowers, and was attending to them with care. Vanessa wore a pretty white dress, stained from the soil, and her hands were caked with dirt. She didn’t seem to mind.
Vanessa looked up with a smile as I approached. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself.” I said.
I sat down next to her. Vanessa leaned against me, and I was grateful for the interaction. I had missed my friend.
“So, how have you been?” I asked.
“Adjusting.” Vanessa said, wiping her eyes. “Father God is very good to me. But He is so busy. I don’t like to bother Him.”
“Yeah, mankind can be so time-consuming.”
“You were right, God is funny….He’s got this thing…He’ll say ‘Vanessa, pull My finger…no, really - I won’t do it this time. Go ahead, pull My finger.’”
Is this a perfect example of an emotional arc?
No, by no means…but it does correlate threads coming together to complete an ending that satisfies the reader’s need for a somewhat happy ending.
You want your reader to laugh while crying at the end of your novel, but that’s something that just comes…it really does. The book you are working on, the one in front of you right now needs an emotional arc, and that has to be planned out ahead of time.
And then we as writers hope that our hard work pays off.
Here is what you can take from this
Writing, in my opinion, is somewhat like fine art. Every artist has a style that they are comfortable with, and that style sets them apart from other artists.
Find your style - what makes you happy, and your work will be better for it. And readers will pick up on that.
Your job as an author is to paint vivid scenes in your reader’s head with words. I know that sounds lame, but it’s true. If you’ve ever sat down with a book, then looked up at the clock and wondered where the hell the last six hours went….then that writer did his or her job pretty darn well.
You want your reader to become totally immersed in the world that you created. You do this by giving your reader characters they can love, a storyline they can’t resist, a villain or diabolical plot they can’t turn away from, and an ending that knocks their socks off. That sounds generic, but I can’t actually come up with a plot or a story line for you.
That’s your job.
But look at the bright side. I can tell you from personal experience that the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment are nearly overwhelming when you put your full effort into a novel…and it turns out damn good.
Good luck and keep writing.
What is your favorite
novel and why?