Writing: Finding Your Best Ending

Whether you’re writing a scene or an essay, your ending is the last thing readers see before going on. Here are tips for finding your best ending.

Writing Tip for Today: What things can help you write the best possible ending?


Your ending—to a scene or the novel or a nonfiction essay—must agree with your original purpose. When you start a scene/essay, you give readers hints at the “why” of your writing and also where you might go with this purpose.

If you veer away from this so-called promise, it’s important to show readers how it relates to that stated purpose or “why.” If you don’t, readers may become confused or frustrated unless you give them a logical reason for the deviation.

Most often, this veering from the original purpose of the scene/opening lines must be something of more importance/tension/stakes than the original purpose. Readers appreciate rising tension and it lures them on to read more. Avoid “promising” actions or developments that don’t pan out.


Fiction writers must understand scene/sequel. A sequel is the sometimes-unspoken processing your character does to decide what to do next. Generally, sequels start with an action or dialogue, followed by a reaction, a dilemma and the decision. This decision leads to the next action.

When you approach your ending, be mindful of what you want readers to take away from the work. Is your goal to keep readers reading? Persuade them of your opinion or angle? In essay writing, writers often leave a scene or anecdote, turn to the reader and make a case for the take away.

Try to keep as much tension as possible in your “turn” or as you come to the end of a fiction scene. Resolving too much too soon deflates the tension you need to propel readers to your ending.

Resolving too soon deflates the tension you need to keep readers reading. 

Satisfied Tension

In essays, I usually write that “turn,” where I speak in more universal terms–just before my last bit of scene. In fiction, you can do this by allowing your character to show the ways in which he/she has changed or grown over the course of the story or novel.

If you write this “turn,” be generous with how you treat your readers. Avoid hitting them over the head. Leave room for readers to come to their own conclusions. Your readers are smart—if you’ve been logically building tension, their emotions are primed for maximum effect. Your ability to influence readers should always allow for critical thinking.

At the tail end of your essay or scene, leave your reader with a picture that best brings out their emotions. In essays, I do this with the last bit of a scene I already have set and built up. In fiction, a character can be grappling with the next obstacle or at the denouement, the character’s state of mind. The only possible endings in fiction are that your character wins the goal, is happy; wins goal isn’t happy; doesn’t win goal but is still happy or doesn’t win and is unhappy. Ambivalence is usually always a terrible ending. Your endings will grow your readership if you work to satisfy them but leave them wanting more.

How do you approach writing your endings?

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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