Every story deserves a good, satisfying ending. But what elements make up a memorable ending?
The Hero should Solve his Own Problem
The resolution of the novel should logical and should, at least in part, be brought about by the hero (or heroine's) quick wit, thinking or reaction. It is unfair to the reader to have the problem solved too easily, or by chance or circumstance. For example, if the hero is in a shootout with the bad guy, it would be disappointing if a brick suddenly fell from an overhead building and instantly killed the bad guy for him. This would certainly make the hero’s day and solve his problem, but it is unsatisfying because the hero has done nothing toward saving his own life. It would be much better if the hero had made a plan in advance, perhaps rigged the brick so that it would fall, then lured the bad guy over to the spot where it will land. In any event, the hero should use his wits in some way to save his own life. His actions should make sense and be products of his own logic, not fate.
Resolve any Subplot
By the end of the book, any subplots, such as romantic subplots, should be resolved. If the hero has a fight with his girlfriend, do they reconcile or are they forever estranged? Other subplots that should be resolved by the end of the book are conflicts with family members or major life decisions. Readers are interested in even small details about the hero or heroine. For example, in your novel the heroine might be looking for a new house to buy. This may be only a minor aside, yet the reader wants to know and will be disappointed if the heroine has not found and purchased her little cottage by the sea by the end of the book. Keep the subplots hanging until the end of the book, but not indefinitely.
Tie up all Loose Ends
“And they lived happily ever after.” It is customary for a novel, especially a genre novel, to have a happy ending, or end on a positive note. The ending is usually a time to assure the reader that all the wrongs have been righted.
However, a book does not absolutely have to have a happy ending. In fact, some of the greatest novels of literature end on an unhappy note. If your book does not have a happy conclusion, then it must be in some way satisfying. The hero must have grown or learned some valuable truth about himself. By the end of the book, the problem that plagued the hero should be resolved, one way or another. The hero should either be on his way to a happier life or have in some way come to terms with, and be at peace with, the decisions he has made.
End with a Strong Sentence
The ending is a good place to provide a kind of closure. What has the hero learned (or not learned) about himself? Has this experience made the hero a better person in some way? If possible, end with a deep thought or emotion
In A Tale of Two Cities, when Sydney Carton commits the noble act of dying in another man’s place, the words "it is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known,” will stay with the reader long after the pages have closed. And who can forget the ending line of Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett O’Hara pronounces, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Tips for making a good ending:
*make sure the ending is logical
*the hero should solve his own problem
*resolve any subplot
*tie up all loose ends
*leave the reader with a strong sentence, thought or emotion