Hi, TWNers!! It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted over here. Though my hiatus went longer than I had wanted, I did have a good break and made several accomplishments. While I had hoped to be saying I had finished the first draft of Project: Believer, that did not happen. Instead, I had decided to write, edit, and publish a contemporary romance novelette in a month and a half! Yes, I have finally released my first solo writing project!
May We Make Them Proud is a Christian contemporary romance novelette about love, healing, and learning to dream again. One of the reviewers on GoodReads I thought had described it best when she wrote that it was a “childhood friends to lovers to enemies to second chances.” That about sums it up. If you’re interested, you can purchase an ebook or paperback on Amazon or add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf! If you’re wishing you had heard about this before now, then you should be subscribed to my newsletter Vintagely Izzy where I (usually) spill sneak peeks and writing announcements first!
Now, I promised I did not write this post just to self-market my book. Let’s get on to today’s actual post about story endings!
When discussing story endings, one usually thinks of things such as having open endings or closed endings, resolved or unresolved. However, for today, I want to talk about another type of endings: happy, bittersweet, and tragic endings. There are many things to consider in your story’s ending. Do you want all the conflicts resolved, or leaving something open for a sequel? Do you have an ambiguous ending or a cliffhanger? Is the villain defeated or is he left to attack in another book? But you also have to consider what the atmosphere of the ending is. Will it be happy? Bittersweet? Or tragic? Those are the three types of endings we are exploring today with tips on genres these endings work best in and examples of three endings that (almost) made me cry!
#1 The Happy Ending
What is it?
The happily ever after is one of the most common used endings in modern fiction. There’s nothing readers love more than a sweet, beautiful conclusion to tie up a story of challenges and victories, first loves and terrible breakups, joys and losses, pain and tears. It’s what most readers now have come to expect in stories because it is done so often, and most readers want the happy, hopeful tone of this type of ending. However, it does run the risk of being over-done or make it seem too-perfect or unrealistic. (Confession: this is actually my least favorite option out of the three. What can I say? I love a good tragedy. *shrugs* I never said I was normal.)
[SPOILER ALERT! I will try not to spill the entire ending, but there will be spoilers in each of the example sections for the ending types. As, how else can I explain an ending without giving it away? So proceed with caution!]
Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen is one book ending that literally almost had me in tears. But here’s the thing. It wasn’t a sad ending. It was actually a beautiful, perfect, very happy ending. So why would this send me to tears? Because it wasn’t so much the ending but the journey to get there. We saw Audra’s struggle through the entire book that she deserved this happy ending and we as the reader deserved to have it.
Benefits of the happy ending:
Though happily ever afters tend to be made fun of, they do have benefits. One of the best times to choose the happy ending is if your story is full of a lot of pain or struggles. Showing that light, that hope, in the darkness can have such a profound impact. As in my book example, it was an impactful ending because we knew how much this ending meant to our leading protagonist and how much this protagonist fought for her ending. She had more than earned it. This happy note might be just what your story needs if you’re worried it’s too dark or depressing. Think about it, the beloved fairytale of Cinderella would not be the same if she didn’t get her happy ending!
Where to use it?
While the ending of your story is always up to you as the author and what you know is best for your story, this is the one time I’m going to tell you the one genre you should highly consider using the happy ending for. And that is romance.
I’ve mentioned before about the invisible contract you have with your reader depending on your story’s blurb, first chapter, cover, and even genre. And the romance genre is the best example here. While it is criticized for being basic and the same thing over and over again, this is what makes it so loved and popular. If I pick up a contemporary romance novel, I’m expecting the ordinary. And that’s usually why I pick it up because it is a comfort zone. I know what will happen and how it will end. Now there are exceptions but the general rule is Girl A and Boy A must end up together in the end with a beautiful sunset in the backdrop and a kiss.
okay the sunset is optional but I’m serious with the kiss. Let’s say you’ve already decided that your romance is to end in a tragedy and now you’re worried the romance market won’t accept it. You don’t have to rewrite the ending, but I would consider picking up another plot that will serve as the dominate plot and make your romance then become a subplot. For instance, Project: Believer (my WIP) is historical fiction with a romance subplot, so I am not held to the same expectations of a happy ending because my audience isn’t romance readers but historical fiction readers.
Basically, I can do what I want. 😉
*evil laughter sounds in the distance*
#2 The Bittersweet Ending
What is it?
The bittersweet ending is one I have seen gaining attention more and more lately. It’s the perfect option if you want somewhat of a happy ending but don’t want it to feel too perfect or too easy. The bittersweet ending has quickly become my favorite because I think it offers a good balance between hopeful but realistic.
The Memories We Painted by Caitlin Miller. *sobs again just thinking about this beautiful book* My favorite part with Miller’s debut is actually the ending. It was unexpected, and I never saw it coming. I actually would’ve sobbed if I wasn’t reading it with my mom and sister sitting right across from me. This ending worked for the book because it was a shock to a reader who never saw it coming and it helped instigate the completion of the main character’s arc.
I mean why else do you think I love this ending? I love making my readers cry.
Benefits of the bittersweet ending
This is the thing, writers. The ending is the very last thing you leave your readers with, the last thing they will think about. What type of note do you want it to end on? That is something to ask yourself when considering which ending to choose. If you’re writing a story about a real tragedy or awful events in history, I find this to be a good option because we all want that hope, that promise that things will get better in time, but at the same time we have to be honest with our readers. Not every story gets a happy ending. Bittersweet endings can leave deep and profound impacts on the reader that will stay with them long after they’ve passed “The End.” They work for just about any genre, and the author is in control with how much bitter and how much sweet they want in the ending. While I haven’t finished Project: Believer yet, I am considering to use the bittersweet ending for it.
#3 The Tragic Ending
What is it?
The tragic ending is not as popular as the above options, but it is used at times when the author wants to make a bold statement or a warning in his message. In recent years, I have come to see the strong benefits the tragic ending can have even though it is such a hard ending to write, especially if you love your characters so much and want them to have much better. Plus, the tragic ending can turn out to make your story very depressing and dark.
The example I am using for this one is Fled for Refuge by Kristina Hall. While there were definitely some positive notes in the ending, it takes a turn for the worse by the end and leaves readers on a shocking, heartbreaking note. (However, this is the first book in the series, so you have to continue if you want to see what the final ending will be!) The tragic ending worked so well for Hall’s Christian dystopian suspense novel because it leaves with a thoughtful conclusion. Throughout the story, the reader sees how terrible things have gotten for Christians in this dystopian version of America, but the one question lingering through the whole novel is how far are the characters going to go for Jesus. This ending then causes readers to ask themselves if they would go that far or not.
I know it might be shocking, but there ARE benefits to the tragic ending
if you overlook all the readers who will hate you for the rest of their lives
You might want to use this option if you are telling a fictionalized version of a real story or if you are basing it off of real events. This type of ending will leave readers thinking about how this real tragic thing happened and how it could have been prevented. Instead of glamorizing the past or real life, you bring something authentic to your readers. As a Christian author, you might want to use this if you want to make a strong point that even through the dark times and through terrible circumstances that no one can change, one thing will always be the same: God. It can be an opportunity to answer the often used question of “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” You could paint a profound (although heartbreaking) picture of trusting God even when you can’t understand why it has to go or end like this. It can also be used as a warning. If you don’t do X, Y, and Z, then A, B, and C will happen. (Just make sure that’s an accurate statement. You don’t want to do something like if you don’t brush your teeth, you will be disowned by your parents and beloved dog for the rest of your life.)
And that’s all that I have for you today!! Let’s chat! Which is your favorite story ending? Has there ever been a book ending that made you (or almost made you) cry? Which ending do you think you read or write the most? Tell me all about it in the comments below!!
Until the next post,