“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
-Elmore Leonard


While I was doing my blog rounds, I ended up on a recent blog post by Alex J. Kane. He was discussing his unfortunate dilemma of not being able to finish a particular short story. In that post, he linked over to a 2010 blog post by James Van Pelt. Mr. Van Pelt’s blog post is very elaborate in terms of what the ending of a story should encompass and how to achieve a great ending. I urge you to check it out.

But I’ll share a few points:

  • “The last words are where the story’s lingering impression are set.”

I can agree with this wholeheartedly. There have been times I would read a short story or a novel and when I got to the end, I was let down. Either it wasn’t as strong as I thought it should’ve been, or it was more like a “stop” rather than an “end.” And sometimes it voided everything that came before it.

But there are other works I’ve read that after reading that final sentence, I would just sit back and ponder at what I read. My mind would wonder about the journey that the characters had gone through and everything I experienced that got me to that final page. When you reach the end and read the concluding words, it can set the tone for everything that came before. It finalizes the entire piece, good or bad.

  • “…random events aren’t turned into stories (or, at least, they aren’t turned into stories until a writer sees a meaning in them).”

As writers, our knack is turning events into stories, but after reading this, I have a newfound view of all the ideas I have sitting in my repertoire. I no longer see them as pieces I “never got around to.” I see them as pieces I’ve yet to find meaning in. Are they great ideas? Do they have great plot potential? Absolutely. But presently there’s no spark that demands me to write them.

Granted, sometimes we authors have to simply push through even without an iota of motivation. But if I’m making headway in one story, there’s no need to force-write another story that I’m simply not feeling at the present moment.

  • “Create characters or situations that the readers truly empathize with.  No ending can be great unless the readers are engaged.”

I also agree. You can, technically, have a great beginning, middle, and end. Stylistically, grammatically, and descriptively, you could have written one of the soundest pieces of fiction known to man. But if there are no characters that the readers can root for (or even root against), what point would your piece have served? If the characters aren’t tossed into a conflicting situation, what journey or growth will the reader take part in? Why should they care if they’re not engaged?

Great endings are endings that the reader can resonate with. Something profound, something meaningful… Something that, when having reached the end, gives them a feeling of gratification and even contemplation.