Writing the End – Part III

Greetings Storytellers!  For a couple of months now, we’ve been exploring the topic of endings and how important they are to creating a satisfying and lasting impression of our books. If you want to catch up on previous posts, here they are:

Part One – Why endings are critical to success.

Part Two – The first four common ways to end a story.

There are 8 common ways to end a story.

Endings covered in the last post (1-4):

  • Resolved Ending
  • Unresolved Ending
  • Ambiguous Ending
  • Surprise Ending

Endings we’ll dive into today (5-8):

  • Tie-back Ending
  • Altered World Ending
  • Altered Character Ending
  • The Epilog

As mentioned in the last post, not all types of endings are mutually exclusive, and the goal isn’t to pick one kind of ending and force your story to conform. Instead, it’s to focus on what you want to emphasize as the most important element of your book, what final experience you want to give your readers as they approach the last page. It’s how you fulfill the promise you made at the story’s beginning.

5.    Tie-back Ending

A story with a Tie-back Ending begins and ends in the same way. The author reveals the ending at the beginning of the story and then fills in the details of how it came about. While this approach may remove some of the suspense, a talented author can add plenty of twists and unexpected plot points.

The cyclical nature of this type of story can be quite literal, returning the story to the exact moment it began, or it can be metaphorical, perhaps returning the protagonist to the same physical place but as a changed person.

Tie-back endings can give an author a solid sense of direction when writing a book — after all, they know how the story turns out, but it doesn’t necessarily make the writing easier. Quite the opposite, the writer must give greater depth to any repeated scenes so that, by the end, they convey a completely different feel or meaning.

6.    Altered World Ending

In an Altered Word Ending, the world that the main characters knew is gone and is not coming back. These types of endings aren’t limited to dystopic science fiction; they apply to any story where someone is facing a new start (in a new country, new city, new job, or new family). Stories about escape from a war-torn nation or finding a home after years in foster care could easily fit into this type of ending.

Usually, the altered world is a result of events beyond the character’s control, and the focus of the story’s ending is on the main character’s personal reactions, positive or negative, as they decide how to move forward in their new situation.

When planning for an Altered World ending, an author must consider the character’s responses to their changing environment as the story progresses, as well as how those responses will tie into their final reaction to the world ahead of them.

7.    Altered Character Ending

The Altered Character ending is similar to the Altered World ending, except in this case, the emphasis is on the character’s internal transformation. Their environment and circumstances stay much the same, but the character now sees things with fresh eyes because they have changed on the inside.

A character’s internal change of perspective is the focus of this ending. An author writing an altered character ending should consider the character’s internal reactions to events in the book, making sure that their thoughts and decisions ultimately point toward the character’s final change in perspective.

8.    The Epilog

This type of ending describes what happens to the world or characters after the main story ends. Epilogs (like Prologs) often get a bad wrap, but if they serve an important function, there’s no reason not to use them.

Epilogs should give further insight into the story and provide a feeling of resolution. They might offer a broader perspective on how the events in the final chapters impacted the characters and their world. They may give readers a peek into the protagonist’s future, or into the lives of those left behind. Characters may look back on events with greater wisdom or despair.

With epilogs, there’s usually a significant shift from the main story (otherwise, they’d just be the final chapter). There’s often a fast-forward in time or a sharp pivot in POV, though they aren’t limited to those changes.

Epilogs shouldn’t take the place of a traditional ending or compensate for a weak ending, but they can effectively tie up a few loose ends that the main story couldn’t address.

Thinking about writing an Epilog? For more information, check out Harmony’s post on the subject: Here!

**

That wraps up Part III of our exploration of endings.

Let me know if I missed one! Have you used one of these endings or a combination of them? Do you have a favorite as a writer?  As a reader?

In Part IV, we’ll start exploring the Elements that make up a Satisfying Ending

Happy Writing!

68 thoughts on “Writing the End – Part III

    • Thanks for the comment, Robbie, and for adding to the discussion. Sometimes the denouement of a book, with any kind of ending, can go on and on and on. The big climax has happened and the rest should be tight and an opportunity for everyone to sigh (not yawn)! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Some tips about writing endings are on their way. 😀

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  1. Love this post, Diana! I’m behind on my Story Empire reading, but I’ve saved the posts I missed and am looking forward to catching up. Reading this particular series from start to finish will be fun. And I know I’ll be saving the whole thing for future reference.

    I love prologs and epilogs, when done well, so I use them pretty regularly. (And TRY to do them well.) With a series, I wrap up the current situation in the final chapter, and set up the next story in the epilog. A sneak preview or hint of things to come, if you will. I like that when reading a series, so I try to make it work for my stories, too. I love your descriptions above and know I will be taking them into consideration as I try to get back to writing and finish my WIP, which I was unable to work on when I was dealing with health issues. I think I’m ready to turn those first 15 chapters into a full book now, and this post is going to help me greatly! THANKS! 🤗❤️

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    • I think the key for enjoying any kind of ending is that “it’s done well.” We get so much understanding of what consistutes a good ending by reading, don’t we? We learn what we like as well as what works. I like the way you use epilogs as a way to wrap up a story in a series and prepare for the next book. Clearly you do it well too! I’m glad you’re ready to get back to those 15 chapters. Great news. Happy Writing!

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  2. This is a fantastic series Diana. I’m a great lover of the epilogue. I like to use it in my books to wrap up my stories and bring readers back into the present. I think this works well for nonfiction. Hugs ❤

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  3. I go for the resolved ending in one way or another, but that usually involves a change in the protagonist as well. This is the first-time I’ve heard Tie-Back as a kind of ending but I know what you mean and I’ve read some excellent examples where the ending still came as a shock. Looking forward to the next one now.
    (By the way, The Bone Wall is magnficent!) xx

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  4. Another wonderful post, Diana. I think the changed character ending is a favorite because it’s true to real life. We all change as we go through the trials and tribulations of life. Living is the source of wisdom. To write characters that are changed by the end of the story adds to the realism. I may be using an epilog on one of my current works in progress. I’ve never used one before, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Thanks for sharing your expertise on the subject, Diana.

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    • Thanks so much for the visit, Beem. Great comment. I enjoy watching characters change and grow too. It’s a common element in most storytelling. At the end of an Altered Character story, the core of the book is a focus on the main characters internal transformation while just about everything in his life remains the same. Like you, I really enjoy these types of stories. Have fun with the Epilog! It’s great to try something different.

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  5. I’m not sure if I have a favorite, though I like just about any ending if it is skillfully executed. I’m less of a fan of the tie-back ending. I like to guess along with the author where the story is going (I’m okay with being right or wrong), but if I already know the ending, that spoils the journey.

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    • I’m with you on your comment about how a skillfully executed ending is a pleasure, no matter the type. True of all elements of writing, Pete, which is why craft is so important. I think writers have to enjoy life-long learning because every story challenges us in different ways. I haven’t tried a tie-back ending. They seem tough to write well, and I’m chicken. Lol. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Happy Writing!

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    • I think a transformed person (internal change) can be standing on the threshold of a new world (external change), Liz, but one of the endings probably takes the lead over the other, which I think structures the story differently. But what do I know. You’re a great storyteller, so you’ll figure it out. Lol. Isn’t it fun, so much to think about. I hope you feel intrigued and inspired! Have a great weekend!

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      • Since you raise that point, then I’d have to say that transformed character takes the lead over transformed world. The world has changed, but I wouldn’t say it’s been transformed. Once I storyboard the novel for the second time, I think that will clarify the ending needed. There sure is a lot to think about! My deveopmental editing list is about five million miles long (hyperbolically speaking). I hope you have a great weekend as well!

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    • Thanks for the visit and comment, Dan. I don’t mind all the research, since I always learn something as I do it. This has made me want to experiment with different endings. 🙂 Have a great evening and wonderful weekend. Happy Writing!

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  6. Normally part way through a novel I plan the ending and try to guide the story towards it. My current WIP currently has three endings, Altered Character, Epilogue, and a sudden stop allowing the reader to decide what happens. All seem equally good and the four people that have read the book and each alternative ending cannot decide which is the best. I won’t be doing that again. LOl any suggestions?

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    • Wow, Ray, what an interesting and time-consuming thing to do, and then not end up with a clear preference. It’s too bad you can use them all. One option would be to go with the one that best resolves the main and subplots, a Resolved Ending, which seems to be the most popular for readers. I think you also might look back at the beginning of your book and see which best compliments the tone, the theme, and the promise you made to the reader. In other words, what beginning and ending are the best pair. It’s a dilemma, and I wish you the best of luck deciding. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. A great post and information, Diana 🙂 I really like to read and write both of the altered endings. There is something about starting over in a new world or a changed person that is satisfying.

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    • I agree, Denise. There’s a sense of hope (hopefully). Since most of our main characters have some sort of personal arc, we also get to include a bit of those elements and that feeling in Resolved Endings. I’ve enjoyed contemplating the options. 🙂 Thanks for the visit and Happy Writing!

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    • I’m so happy to hear that this is helpful. You’ll be a distance from writing the end, but it doesn’t hurt to have something in mind to work toward. I can see how all of these could fit your stories, Jacqui. Phew! Have fun and Happy Writing.

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  8. I’m a big fan of a well-done prologue, and I like epilogues but I’ve never used one. I always know what the end will be when I start a book, but I’ve never really thought about what KIND of ending I want to write. Your series has been interesting.

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    • Thanks, Judi, for stopping by. I think a lot of us just naturally write resolved endings because they’re what we’re used to as readers, and we often find them satisfying. But understanding the whys and wherefors can us more intentional about our choices and perhaps improve our skills. Stay tuned for next month’s tips which will apply to all kinds of endings. Happy Writing!

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    • These are only the eight most common, Gwen, and though the discussion is regarding a story’s main arc, these endings can be mixed and matched and layered. So many choices. It’s wonderful. Thanks for stopping by and Have a great weekend. 🙂 ❤

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  9. A fantastic up close look at these types of endings, Diana. I’ve used them all with the exception of the altered world ending. I think altered character is most common in the fiction I write and read, but I used a tie-back ending in all three of my novels in the Hode’s Hill series. And planster that I am, I still had no idea how the plot was going to get there. Fortunately the characters led the way, LOL!

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    • Thanks for swinging by, Mae. I don’t know how pantsers or plansters do it, but somehow you get there. Tie-Back endings aren’t easy, and the Hode’s Hill series was great. I tend to go for Resolved endings for my main storyline, but layering altered character or altered world in there suits me too. I’m glad you enjoyed the posts so far. Happy Writing!

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  10. One of the most beautiful things about crafting stories is all the options we, as creators, have. And your series on endings has been the perfect example. I love what you said about the ending fulfilling the promise made to the reader at the beginning of the story. It’s true. And when that promise isn’t met, I’m left feeling cheated. I’m not a fan of unresolved endings, even if I know the author’s intent is to lead me to the next segment of the story. I love tie-back endings as it brings the story full-circle. Heck, I love any good satisfying ending. Thank you for shining a spotlight on these different options, Diana! A great series!

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    • What a great comment, Jan. Thank goodness that we have so many options in all aspects of storytelling. Despite the hundreds of thousands of books out there, we’re still able to craft something original. I also like that line about fulfilling the promise made at the beginning of the book. It’s all tied together, every choice we make as authors. It really is a craft. Thanks for the visit and Happy Weekend!

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  11. Another wonderful post on endings. It’s helpful to have them listed and summarised like this. Thanks for sharing, Diana. I think I’ve used most of these at one time or another, but my main focus is to have a satisfying ending. I look forward to reading your next posts! Have a great weekend. Hugs 💕🙂

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    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts, Harmony. I haven’t tried a Tie-Back ending as it sounds too challenging for me. But the others… I’ve used them, often in conjuction with a Resolved Ending. It’s all about the final impression we want to leave readers with as they close the last page. 🙂 Happy Writing, my friend.

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  12. You’ve given me much to think about. I like the altered character ending where a character looks at things in a new (and often better) way. I’ve used both prologs and epilogs at times. From a reader’s standpoint, I always read them. I’m not sure why anyone would ignore them, although I’ve heard one person say he always does that. If a write puts them there, there is a reason.

    Great series, Diana.

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    • Thanks for the visit, Joan. I like those kinds of endings too because the transformation is so meaningful. In order to be the culmination of the story and the character’s personal journey it has to be. And I completely agree with you – if there’s a prolog and epilog, they are there for a reason. 🙂 Skipping them can change or wreck a story. Happy Friday and Happy Writing!

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    • Thanks for dropping by, Craig. There are a lot of nuances in the direction a story takes us and you can use elements of several endings if the tale calls for it. If your loose ends are tied up and the world returns to “normal,” you might have a Resolved Ending. A Tie-Back Ending would be if you started with your character holding the chest of gold and the whole story was about how they got there, ending with the character holding the chest of gold (with a twist perhaps, which adds a bit of a Surprise Ending – delightful or devastating). I love this stuff. Enjoy your editing and happy writing. 🙂

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  13. Pingback: Writing the End – Part III | Legends of Windemere

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