How important is a novel’s ending?

How important is a novel’s ending? Just as important as the “hook” at the beginning.

Once a month I write about the first line in a different novel. I must admit that I have worked harder on, done more “how to” reading about, and lost more sleep over the opening scene in my manuscript for The Spanish Coin than I have for the ending.

A good beginning “hooks” the reader’s attention and draws him into the story. A good ending leaves the reader satisfied and, hopefully, exhausted. A good ending makes the reader contact the author and ask, “You are writing a sequel, aren’t you?” The ending of a novel should either tie up all the loose ends for your main characters or cause the reader to wonder what happened to those characters later. Did they find justice, acceptance, love, or whatever they were seeking? The reader should still think about those characters weeks after reading the book. How many of us thought about Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird years later and wondered how her life turned out? Like it or not, we got our answer in 2015 when the long lost Go Set a Watchman manuscript by Harper Lee was discovered and published.

As with the writing of the other parts of a piece of fiction, there are rules to guide an author in crafting the ending.

  • Don’t introduce new characters
  • Do increase the suspense
  • Do surprise the reader, but do it in a way in which he can think back to foreshadowing earlier in the book
  • Know the ending before you write the beginning

The rule I listed last is one I need to keep in mind when I write my next book. I did not know about that rule when I started writing The Spanish Coin. I didn’t have a clue how that story was going to end. In fact, it made me exceedingly sad to see how the story unfolded. I had become quite fond of the character who turned out to be the villain.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.



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