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What do you need to accomplish in the last chapter? (1 Viewer)

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Well, it's happening! :p :oops::D

I just spent two days thinking of various ways to write the last chapter of my novel. I have several ideas but thought I'd check in with you guys to see if I can glean some last-minute advice.

What do you need to accomplish, to be 100% satisfied with the final chapter?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
You want to tie up loose ends... don't leave plot points unexplained. If you're planning on a sequel, you can leave an enticing loose end to carry it ... but then you'd better darn well write that sequel! LOL Certainly, you resolve the main focus of the plot.

Some planned series leave massive cliffhangers. I'm not a fan of that as an author OR a reader.

Very important, don't rush it. Some authors rush their endings and can leave the reader confused. Jonathan Gash, who I mentioned in another thread, did that quite often in his Lovejoy novels. So keep it clear, and make sure the pace of your events in the ending matches the rest of the novel.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
Congratz, Taylor! You're there!

It needs to satisfy and tie up loose ends.
To satisfy me, if it's a happy ending after trials, I think the characters need to get to reap the rewards of their perseverance and suffering. If they get what they worked for, I want to experience them enjoying it. Not for too long, but for long enough to really get an idea that it actually satisfies.

SPOILERS-- I've written this before on this website somewhere.
The ending to Harry Potter series after the battle (when they were grown with kids of their own) was not satisfying. It was too short and almost flippant and we didn't get to explore the relationships to see if we liked the relationships between the adults and I didn't feel any maturity really or their love for their kids. J K was racing to 'the end"? I don't know. I would have wanted to see something like a surviving teacher asking Harry and Hermione and Ron back to school and asking them to help re-build Hogwarts. It never seemed like they could be Aurors without that final year of school.

The ending to The Hunger Games series was pretty much horrifying. I cared so much about Katniss and the main drive for her was her love for her sister and somewhat her love for Gail and Peta. To loose Prim like that at the end of the war like the author was just tossing the most horrible suffering of all onto the pile with no qualms just like "there you go". I know I said this before, but that was a punch in the stomach. The short little "I guess you like me afterall" even though you're alcoholic and a drug addict now with Peta just.... man... did this feel more real to the author as someone who is part of the military herself? As her reader, I rode through all 3 books for a reason and it was to see if happiness could come at the end and this felt like the author was punching me.

Jane Austen gave us almost a full end chapter in P&P with her narrator together with some thoughts of Elizabeth's being thrown in conjecturing about what Dr. Darcy and Elizabeth's happy life would be like. It was good, but I would have preferred being shown. In Emma, JA did better showing us what their relationship was like and the agreements they came to after they agreed to marry. That was nice. We got to discover for ourselves that we thought their relationship worked. I think if you know you like the relationship already of the couple, then them just deciding to get together works as the ending, but if we really never got to see them together even as friends, then you're curious to see. I think.

I can thoroughly enjoy a sad ending if that is what is somehow satisfying/deserved, makes a bigger point, or makes something more meaningful.

A close look at what makes something satisfying has probably been written elsewhere. I wonder how much justice has a part in it.
I did a search... of course you could too: https://annerallen.com/2019/11/writing-final-chapter/
So for her point #6 and what I said above. I didn't need the adult kids at the end of Harry Potter... made it worse for me. But I was curious about seeing Darcy and Elizabeth since they were talking about their marriage, although I guess JA could have left it at just the proposal. Hmm, beta readers will be important for me to get it right when I write the next part of my book.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
I like her do's and don'ts in the last half of the blog more than her examination of genre endings in the first half. That part was too trite, and for example, I don't think I've EVER read a fantasy ending which matches her "normally". LOL
I'm now going through articles. This is the best one so far. I was thinking a lot about my favorite short story "The Dead" last week It's the words at the end that are so extremely satisfying even if nothing else in the story is. As if death, is the only justice or satisfying thing as the only equalizer. But the words are so memorable. I'm glad I found an article that mentioned it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm now going through articles. This is the best one so far. I was thinking a lot about my favorite short story "The Dead" last week It's the words at the end that are so extremely satisfying even if nothing else in the story is. As if death, is the only justice or satisfying thing as the only equalizer. But the words are so memorable. I'm glad I found an article that mentioned it.
This is a good article. I thought this comment was really useful:
Your ending also needs to be tonally consistent.
It really helped me pick the right ending. I'm writing in close POV. There really was only one of my choices that was very similar in tone.

I've decided on an event, that is a happy day for the protagonist. It occurs 6 months later than the previous chapter. So all of the turmoil in people's lives that has occurred in Chapters 1-47, is now settled down, but there are significant repercussions for the main characters. I'm writing it as a backstory for the last 6 months as the main protagonist's reflections. Also, I cover the current state/situation of each main character, so a few subtle plants for the sequel as each of these characters have a new challenge ahead of them. Then the final few paragraphs will be current time as the MC heads into her new life.

You want to tie up loose ends... don't leave plot points unexplained. If you're planning on a sequel, you can leave an enticing loose end to carry it ... but then you'd better darn well write that sequel! LOL Certainly, you resolve the main focus of the plot.
I didn't leave anything loose, but hopefully, the new challenges ahead for characters whose lives have changed will be enticing enough. I pretty much spent the whole book planting seeds for this, with the two sequels in mind. In each sequel, I will cover different industries that were touched on in this book. So if people are interested in those industries, i.e., Fashion and Real Estate, and they liked these characters, that should do the trick.

Some planned series leave massive cliffhangers. I'm not a fan of that as an author OR a reader.
Agree! Also not very good for the book club market. They try to avoid anything that cannot be read as a stand-alone.

Very important, don't rush it. Some authors rush their endings and can leave the reader confused. Jonathan Gash, who I mentioned in another thread, did that quite often in his Lovejoy novels. So keep it clear, and make sure the pace of your events in the ending matches the rest of the novel.
The best advice I could have got. I definitely was doing this. Sort of like I'm done with this story and ready to move on to the next one. But that's not fair to the reader...lol!
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I believe that the purpose of the FIRST chapter is to tip your main character(s) out of a stable position and into action that will drive them through your novel. The LAST chapter is to return stability to your characters - as others have said, if you're writing a series it's ok to leave a few loose ends.

The best advice I've received for ending novels was to write characters such that the reader cares enough to wonder what they did after the story concluded, and sometimes that means leaving a minor loose end even when the book isn't part of a series.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I believe that the purpose of the FIRST chapter is to tip your main character(s) out of a stable position and into action that will drive them through your novel. The LAST chapter is to return stability to your characters - as others have said, if you're writing a series it's ok to leave a few loose ends.

The best advice I've received for ending novels was to write characters such that the reader cares enough to wonder what they did after the story concluded, and sometimes that means leaving a minor loose end even when the book isn't part of a series.

It doesn't have to be a return to stability, just to a new normal. That normal does not have to be stable, especially if it's part of an ongoing storyline.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I believe that the purpose of the FIRST chapter is to tip your main character(s) out of a stable position and into action that will drive them through your novel. The LAST chapter is to return stability to your characters - as others have said, if you're writing a series it's ok to leave a few loose ends.

The best advice I've received for ending novels was to write characters such that the reader cares enough to wonder what they did after the story concluded, and sometimes that means leaving a minor loose end even when the book isn't part of a series.

Well articulated as usual IR!

I've hit your FIRST chapter point and your LAST chapter point. Let's hope I wrote the characters well enough to entice interest.

Keeping true to my desire to make it realistic, I opted for the style of an ending one would expect of a true story. You know, when they recount what happened to everyone after the period portrayed. But, because I pushed it forward six months and write it as back story, we don't know what happens to the characters long term. It's worked out well as it gave me the opportunity to close off some short-term loose ends while leaving it open for some "long-term loose ends." Like life in general...we never really know what happens until the VERY end.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Well articulated as usual IR!

I've hit your FIRST chapter point and your LAST chapter point. Let's hope I wrote the characters well enough to entice interest.

Keeping true to my desire to make it realistic, I opted for the style of an ending one would expect of a true story. You know, when they recount what happened to everyone after the period portrayed. But, because I pushed it forward six months and write it as back story, we don't know what happens to the characters long term. It's worked out well as it gave me the opportunity to close off some short-term loose ends while leaving it open for some "long-term loose ends." Like life in general...we never really know what happens until the VERY end.
Sounds like you handled it perfectly.
As far as writing your characters well enough to entice interest - if you care about them yourself, it will happen naturally.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It doesn't have to be a return to stability, just to a new normal. That normal does not have to be stable, especially if it's part of an ongoing storyline.
Yes, good point Cephus! But what is stability in life? Anything can happen any day so we are never really stable. My three protagonists had some major life changes throughout the story. They've all had ups and downs. But at the endpoint I chose, they are all content and adjusting to what's to come. Life isn't perfect for any of them and I have put in enough caveats to their new normal so that I can stir up some more trouble in the sequels.

Oh...how powerful I feel...what fun!!
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
Resolutions mainly. I try to wrap up the plot, as well as any character arcs. Unless it's part of a series in which the arcs and some
plot elements move forward, there needs to be resolutions and some closure.

-JJB
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Endings are hard and I'm still hit and miss with them as far as shorts are concerned. I have discovered the culprit though, which may help, and that's the fact I try to tie everything up too neatly and in some way summarise the meaning of the journey. In my opinion, it's better to have ellipsis than a full stop, and leave the reader thinking on beyond the end, even if it's a standalone story and not part of a series of books. I don't think the end needs to be as good if not better than the rest of the story. The fact the reader has got to the end means you've written a good story.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
You might have your heroine trying to save a kidnapped child. That is sometimes called a hook, and it can easily keep the reader reading until there is a resolution.

Anyway, there are smaller "hooks", like what happens in a romantic entanglement, and they can also keep the reader reading. It is your job as a writer to "unhook" the reader from these, with some sort of resolution. I think that's what vranger meant by "loose ends".

But I don't think you should be telling what happens in the future if it is unrelated to the "story", especially if we think of the story as being something coherent and they don't add to the coherence.

I almost forgot! The best advice I can give is to keep describing action for as long as you can. Description doesn't work well. When there is some information the author needs to dump, it will be put into action -- something happening in the next day, or a day years into the future. (A conversation counts as action here.)

So "they lived happily ever after" is ugh, partly because it doesn't have anything to do with the story, and partly because it's description.

So, EXCITING TIMES! Can you give a coherence to your book? (Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least try.) Can you unhook the reader using action? Can you make this scene just as entertaining as the rest of your book?

And if you can wrap up that last important thing and then stop cold, you can have a great final paragraph. In the last fiction book I wrote (Emotions Girl), I had this wonderful epilog that was action, it was funny, it was profound, it explained where things were going, and . . . I had to throw out the damn darling, because the ending without it was a perfect stop.

GOOD LUCK! HAVE FUN!
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Resolutions mainly. I try to wrap up the plot, as well as any character arcs. Unless it's part of a series in which the arcs and some
plot elements move forward, there needs to be resolutions and some closure.

-JJB
I like that you said "some" closure. To wrap things up too neatly, with nothing left unsaid is not realistic to real life. Personally, I hate it when authors try too hard at the end to let you know they lived happily ever after. Even romantically linking random single people that were in the story. I feel like one needs to bring resolution to the story but not to the character's lives...if that makes sense.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
You can also end with the beginning of something else.
DSOJ ended with the character returning home and feeling out of place in that environment (typical hero's journey).
Last Dragon ended with the character entering into a new relationship.
Departure ended with the character laughing - knowing he had defeated his tormentor.
Desperation ended with the character's defeat by an AI - they walk off together, symbolic of their future.
Damnation ended with the defeat of their enemy, but the MC emotionally scarred.
Deviation ended with the foundation of a new civilization.
Destination ended with humanities transformation and their creation setting off on their own.
Redemption ended with finding peace and each other, and agreeing to help each other heal.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Endings are hard and I'm still hit and miss with them as far as shorts are concerned. I have discovered the culprit though, which may help, and that's the fact I try to tie everything up too neatly and in some way summarise the meaning of the journey.
Totally agree! If the reader hasn't gotten the point by now, trying to summarize it is a waste of time. And if the reader has got it, it's frankly insulting.
In my opinion, it's better to have ellipsis than a full stop, and leave the reader thinking on beyond the end, even if it's a standalone story and not part of a series of books.
Yes, I think most opinions here are to leave a bit to ruminate about. Resolution of the main plot, but leave a few loose ends, because that's more real to life and natural for a reader. Perhaps in children's books, it's ok to say they lived happily ever after. The worst last chapter I ever read was in the form of a letter that the protagonist wrote to another character in the book. The letter is dated two years later, and the protagonist describes how perfect her life is, even that she got married and had a baby. I mean what's the purpose of that? And in this case, it was unrelated to the story which was a very basic murder mystery.
I don't think the end needs to be as good if not better than the rest of the story. The fact the reader has got to the end means you've written a good story.
Great advice...and you take the pressure off! Thanks for this...it helped me a lot. Got to get to THE END!
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Somebody said on those websites I read, the point of a good ending is to sell the next book. I think it also has its own merit, of course, though.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
You can also end with the beginning of something else.
DSOJ ended with the character returning home and feeling out of place in that environment (typical hero's journey).
Last Dragon ended with the character entering into a new relationship.
Departure ended with the character laughing - knowing he had defeated his tormentor.
Desperation ended with the character's defeat by an AI - they walk off together, symbolic of their future.
Damnation ended with the defeat of their enemy, but the MC emotionally scarred.
Deviation ended with the foundation of a new civilization.
Destination ended with humanities transformation and their creation setting off on their own.
Redemption ended with finding peace and each other, and agreeing to help each other heal.
I pretty much do that every time. :)
 
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