Writing, Critique Partnerships and Other Stories

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Apr 10, 2020

How to Write a Satisfying Ending

By Jessica Hogbin.

            A satisfying book ending isn’t something that just happens; it’s something you work toward throughout your entire story. Imagine Freytag’s pyramid—your ending is everything that happens after the climax. These are known as the falling action, resolution, and denouement. These three parts are needed for a satisfying ending, especially because without them, your ending can feel rushed, unclear, and frustrating for readers.

            In my opinion, the falling action is what makes or breaks the ending of the book. As all writers know, it’s important to build to the climax of your story. However, it is also important to build to the falling action. While this may make up only a few chapters of your story, it is important not to rush through this part of the story. The falling action is also called the return, because it represents the return to normal for your characters now that the climax has ended. In a sense, all the worldbuilding that you established early on in your work comes back in the falling action, because now it is time to establish what the main character’s new world will be like now that everything has changed. The falling action is a kind of a return to normal but remember that your whole story has been a life-changing experience for your character. If the character isn’t exhibiting growth, grieving loss, or changing in some way in the falling action, the end of your story can fall flat.
            Next is the resolution. The resolution is where all conflict is resolved in the story. If everything is going well for your protagonist, this is where you declare them a triumphant victor! They have dealt with their emotions following the climax. The antagonist is thoroughly defeated. However, not all satisfying endings have a happy resolution. Perhaps your protagonist lost. This is where they accept that, and, regardless of the outcome, the character decides to move on from that chapter of their life.
             The denouement is the finale of your story. This typically occurs in the last chapter. It is where all the “loose ends” are tied up. This includes the side stories and B plots that you established throughout your work. Be sure to give a clear ending to all of the events of your story, otherwise, the audience will be left questioning the details that you didn’t provide them with. A good denouement involves the ending that your character has earned, regardless of whether it is the one that they deserved. Often, the denouement is bittersweet, because it signals that the story you’ve become attached to is ending. However, it is the best and most satisfying endings that leave the audience wanting more even though you’ve given them a complete ending with everything that they needed to know.


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About the Author: Jessica Hogbin
Jessica Hogbin is currently a student at West Virginia University and is majoring in history, Italian studies, and religious studies. She spends her free time writing when she isn't studying for exams or working at a local museum where she designs and implements programs for children. Next year will be her last year as an undergraduate before hopefully heading to graduate school. Jessica currently writes young adult thrillers because she loves the intersection between teenage drama and real-life horror. Her first published short story was called "Fell Into Darkness" and was published by The First Line magazine. Her other published work is a flash fiction piece titled "The Miraculous Second Life of Bartolomeo Snyde" and is based on some graffiti she saw at a train station in Milan.