Story Structure: And The Crowd Roars, An Unforgettable Ending
Have you ever watched a basketball game and your team was down by a few points? They have possession of the ball and the clock is winding down fast. Whether you are sitting in the bleachers or on your living room couch, the anticipation of the final outcome has you riveted. All is quiet as the crowd watches a player throw the ball from what seems like miles from the basket. Swoosh! And the crowd goes wild! "We won! We won!"
Okay, so what does this sports analogy have do with writing the ending of a novel? Other than the fact it's March Madness, I do have a few "points" for you. By the time a reader reaches the last third of your book, there should have been some emotional highs and lows. As the writer, you are the player who has everything riding on his shoulders as he attempts to make the winning shot - that an unforgettable ending.
Think back to a book you've read where you closed the book in disgust. There have been a few books in the last few months, if it wasn't for the fact I'm a mature adult, I would've thrown it across the room. The endings were either rushed, didn't make a bit of sense or just left me hanging with questions.
Let's review a few elements you can use to please your crowd (readers).
1) Increase the Tension
Keep the tension tight by creating page-turning scenes that flow. You want to keep the reader on the edge of their seat (bed, wherever they are reading). Now, creating tension can be a bit tricky. You can either make the story move too fast or painfully slow.
Lately, I have been reading romance novels, which I rarely read, but I am now for research purposes. Some of the tension towards the end in some of these novels were a tad bit on the soap opera side which just slowed down the reading experience for me. While your novel is meant to entertain, keep it realistic and keep in mind your readers wants a feel good story, but also don't want to be insulted in the process.
If you write suspense or mystery, don't drop too many surprise or twists as a way to create tension. You might leave the reader scratching their head, trying to figure out where are you going with this drastic turn of events. The ending is NOT the time to lose your reader's focus (Well, actually you never want to do that).
2) Don't Forget to Conclude your Subplots
You are going to have to tie up loose ends, especially those created through subplots. Don't be tempted to overload the reader in the last few pages. If you are plotter, you might want to really review your outline to see where you can wrap-up minor story lines. A pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer), should still go back to review previous scenes.
When a few of my critique partners started asking similar questions about my manuscript, it dawned on me, that I had not full developed and completed a subplot, even though my ending made sense. So, remember if you don't resolve loose ends, the reader will have questions even after the conclusion of the book.In some cases, no matter what you do, readers will still be curious about characters. I know many authors who have completed a novel, but those characters (or fans insisted) wanted to come back to life. It's quite possible a minor character may receive the starring role in a future book.
3) The Defining Moment
In every story, ever written, the protagonist (main character) has a defining moment. The reader will find out if your character is a hero/heroine or a wimp. If they are going to stay the same or burst forth into a new level of maturity. This particular moment works very closely with the tension you've created up until this point. Your character may have to make a life-changing decision. She could be fighting for her life. The antagonist (or villain) may have the advantage and there's just no possible way for the outcome to turn out in the protagonist favor.
You can visually see this moment demonstrated in movies and television. Think about your favorite movie or recent episode. Were you on the edge of your seat (remember the basketball scenario earlier)? Did you start crying or fussing at the screen (like they can hear you)?Brainstorm some ideas and work on writing something fresh. A defining moment can really push the reading experience up a notch or dash it to pieces.
4) Provide Closure For Your Readers
The overriding motivation to finish a book is to find out the conclusion. Who was the killer? Will John and Jane finally be together forever? Will Karen experience freedom from her childhood secret?
However you are led to end a novel, try to bring some closure to the reader. I've noticed with serial books, where the author will be publishing book two or three in a few months, they may leave some unanswered questions on purpose. I personally don't like this because some publishers pump these series books so fast, it's hard to keep up with them. I'd rather read a book and have a satisfying ending with the choice of continuing to read the series.
With all that said, I must add there is nothing quite like typing "The End." I don't know about other writers, but for my first time, I felt like I heard "a crowd" roaring in my ear, "You did it!"
This concludes the Story Structure Series. Add a comment to the post to let me know if this series help you. Next month, I will start a series on "points of view".
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tyora Moody is the editor of WrittenVoicesBlog.com where she features “AA Literature that Edifies the Soul”. She often finds herself trying to juggle various hats on her short frame. Those hats include being a military wife, writer, blogger, book reviewer, web developer, and “momma” to two spoiled cats. Follow her journey to publication on TyoraMoody.com.