Have you ever had that feeling? You get to the end of a great book or short story, and you’re at the end and NOTHING happens? Or it’s a dumb ending or ugh! Doesn’t that just make you feel… well… icky?
When I get to the end of the book, I want to see some important things happen. I want the main conflict resolved, the mysteries or sub-dilemmas cured, and I want to feel as though I have closure to the story.
The only exception to that is when the author is planning a sequel. Then, I don’t mind a cliffhanger ending, but it has to be about something less important than the main problem in that particular book. Right?
Let’s look at some classic endings and tell me how you feel…
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Cornelius Fudge has to admit that Voldemort has returned and resigns as Head of the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge is suspended from her teaching post, and Dumbledore returns as headmaster of Hogwarts. Cool. Voldemort is still out there, though. He’s the over-arching villiany problem in the series, so that’s OK. The conflict in this book was to get the powers of wizardom to admit that Harry was right. Feels right to me.
Matilda: Matilda’s parents leave her with Miss Honey. No series. Boom! We feel happy that Matilda finally has someone to love and care for her because her parents never really did.
The Giver: Jonas and Gabriel escape and find houses where music is playing. Ta-da! You may think that The Giver isn’t solved because they haven’t actually made it to the house with music, but the main conflict isn’t survival. It’s about breaking away from the society that raised him. Jonas succeeded whether he survives or not. You still feel relief.
If people don’t feel anything when they read your ending, you haven’t done your job.