Different common endings in stories

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Novels have to end, and in a way that isn’t predictable yet is satisfying to the reader. Endings tie up loose threads, unless you’re writing literary fiction, which allows for more ambiguity. Rules for writing endings can barely exist, because endings are tied to the unique story elements of each novel. Your imaginative powers will be tested most when it comes eto creating a satisfying conclusion.

Beginnings are easy. Endings are hard.

But it will help if you know the five types of endings:

-The Lead gains his objective (the happy ending).

-The Lead loses his objective (unhappy ending).

-The Lead gains his objective but loses something more valuable (classic tragedy).

-The Lead sacrifices his objective for a greater good.

-The ending is ambiguous or bittersweet (mostly for literary fiction).

There are also:

Happy Ending
A happy ending is very satisfactory for the reader. The hero or protagonist lives happily ever after and the villain gets what’s coming to him. Things that were lost are found and obstacles are overcome. The hero saves the world from catastrophe, and the couple gets their kidnapped child back.

Tragic Ending
At the end of a tragic novel, the hero or protagonist often dies. The ultimate problem in the story may be resolved, but it is at the hero’s expense. Although the ending is tragic, characters in the story often learn valuable lessons and will be better people as a result.

Twist Ending
A novel that has a twist ending surprises the reader with the unexpected. This type of ending is most common in mysteries. The person who committed the crime is often the last person you would expect, or the situation is not quite as it appeared. It takes skill to write a twist ending. If done incorrectly, the reader might feel cheated.

Ambiguous Ending
An ambiguous ending leaves it to the reader to interpret the end of the story. The author chooses to leave some of the main storylines unresolved. The reader is free to imagine what happens in the lives of the characters, such as whether the bad guy got away or whether their favorite couple ever got married. However, many readers don’t appreciate this type of ending.

Explicit ending
This is the ending that wraps everything up and answers all the questions. This ending will frequently tell what happens to each of the major characters, and is usually very satisfying in its completeness. Particularly well suited for novels (over short stories), when using this ending, it is especially important to watch for plot holes and missing clues. Example: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Implicit ending – If you like an ending that is strongly based on interpretation, then you like implicit endings. These endings are more common in short fiction. An example is The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clark.

Tie-back ending
This ending ties the end of the story back to clues planted in the beginning. The example provided in the endings class is the short story entitled The Star by Arthur C. Clark, where the story opens with what the main character’s conflict is and ends with why.

Unresolved ending
In unresolved endings, the main conflicts are left unanswered, such as in The Lady, or the Tiger by Frank R. Stockton. The reader is left to ponder the outcome. Cliffhanger endings would also fall under this category.

Long view ending – These endings tell what happens to the characters a significant timeframe into the future. An example is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, which ends telling who married whom, who had kids, etc. out into the future.

The other interesting detail I learned about endings is that in most genres, readers expect a happy ending. Exceptions are stories based on true events or horror. In looking over the stories I’ve written, I don’t always end on a happy note. While I don’t want to reveal the ending to Hope and Faith, I am curious to learn your take.

Do you prefer stories with happy endings? What is your favorite type ending?

Amir.H.Ghazi

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33 thoughts on “Different common endings in stories

  1. For a trilogy or series, I like a long-view ending, something that wraps up where the characters go, especially if there is a time lapse between the ending of the main story and an epilogue (much like in the “Harry Potter” series or “The Hunger Games” trilogy). Ambiguous endings irk me to some degree as it almost seems like the author didn’t entirely plot out where the events or characters were to end up (though I’m it works in some stories if they warrant it). As a whole, I prefer happy endings because, as Tolkien observed regarding the “eucatastrophe,” they uphold most reader’s belief in hope for a better circumstance or fair outcomes (e.g. good characters are rewarded, bad characters are punished/defeated, etc.). But to each his or her own and every ending is relative to the type of story the author seeks to pen. Great post by the way – very informative! 🙂

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  2. A proper cliffhanger ending means to me there’s a sequal, or better be. I don’t like endings you have to decide on yourself. I think that’s frustrating. Many who write advice for writers are advocating a definite ending, not telling the reader they are to decide on an ending. As an author, you don’t want an angry or frustrated reader. Some are liable to throw your book or story across the room, and not read any of your future work. This was a good piece, Amir.

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  3. I DEFINITELY do not like ambiguous unresolved endings. I ‘d rather have tragic and a twist ending than something ambiguous and unresolved. I’m okay with implicit endings, too . For example, a cheater begs for forgiveness, he is forgiven, happy ending ? I don’t think so, because the next line ( the last line ) shows him staring at a beautiful girl walking by. The ending is that the girl is with a scumbag , and she has to deal with it forever, or until next time it happens again.

    Unresolved and ambiguous endings , in my opinion, render the whole story rather pointless. But that’s just me.

    What makes Harry Potter such a great story telling is that everything is resolved, and has a long view ending, pretty much what life is really like.

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  4. Great post, Amir. I definitely have to have happy endings… It’s a flaw in me, I admit. I just want to be entertained. I find more than enough sadness in real life. Reading (and writing) books is an escape. Wishing you a wonder-filled weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

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