Five ways to leave your readers

Leaving Well Enough AloneYou’ve done all the hard work of developing your story, making sure it has a great title, intriguing opening and lots of descriptive images. You might even use point of view, metaphors and some of our other writing tools.

But now, it’s time for the ending. So it is important to decide how you want to leave them and figure out how to do it with impact!

Endings do not have to be “happily ever after.” In fact, many great last pages don’t offer  tidy closure; rather they leave readers thinking and feeling long after a story ends. (Sometimes they just set up a sequel.) Either way — whether you want a clean good-bye or prefer on-going pondering —  good endings take some work.  Here are five ideas you can mix and match to help you through farewell.

  1. TRUE VOICE. End with dialogue (or your narrator’s internal thoughts) that either wrap up your story line, reinforce the main issues, or set the reader thinking about what will happen next.
  2. FULL CIRCLE. End with the beginning. This obviously is effective in “flashback” stories, but also is a great tactic in linear plots, as well.
  3. EMOTICON. What is the key emotion you intend the story to evoke? Anger? Sadness? Fear? Humor? Compassion? Love? End with narrative that captures your emotional purpose for the story.
  4. POINTED QUERY. A great technique to leave readers thinking, or hanging, is to end with an intriguing question or series of questions that you don’t answer.
  5. REMINDER. End with a clear statement or reminder. This works especially well in non-fiction stories, articles and essays in which you’re trying to persuade your readers. In effect, you leave readers with the message you want them to take home after all is said and done. (If you want them to do something — write a letter, make a phone call, donate —  here is the place to ask them.)


2 thoughts on “Five ways to leave your readers

  1. A very nice Web site, Merry. I was writing up notes for the Manchester Writers’ Circle I moderate and found I’d cryptically pencilled in your site and telephone. Was it in connection with Thom Cherney’s art from Tent City painters? Our subject was artists who might consider doing book covers and/or illustration for children’s books. Now I’ll have to wait till we meet next week to find out why your name came up!

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