The conclusion of your story or article wraps it up like packaging around your parcel, ready to be posted.
What do I mean?
I’m sure most people have, at some stage in their life, wrapped up an item to send to someone. Although the days of posting letters seems to be in demise, parcels don’t go through your computer outbox at all well. Any object larger than a letter obviously needs to be properly wrapped and addressed so it can be posted through ‘snail mail’.
How can we view this analogy for writing conclusions?
- Packaging needs to keep the entire contents neatly contained, so they won’t get lost in transit. Your last sentences of an article (or perhaps an entire chapter of a book) must also give a satisfying conclusion for the plot. None of the characters should be left partly dangling out of the packaging, leaving your reader wondering ‘what happened to …?”
- It needs to be clearly addressed to the intended recipient – i.e. your reader. Your reader has come with you to the end of your story or book (unless he was just taking a sneaky peek at the last pages!), and deserves to feel satisfied by a conclusion that makes sense. Your reader should feel that you know what she wants to find out, and you respect her judgement about the outcome.
- It needs to be strong. It’s no good if the packaging unravels in transit. What do I mean? A theme is sometimes called a ‘takeaway’ – and it’s what your reader takes away from your story. Even if your reader is not consciously aware of your intended takeaway through your story, the ending needs to leave your reader with the emotion inherent in your theme. Did you want to encourage, inspire, educate, challenge? Each of these (including education) has emotions connected with it. I believe the end of the story should leave the person feeling this emotion.
- It should have a return address in case it goes missing in the post. How do I apply this analogy to writing? Readers will return for more books or other items written by an author they enjoy.
The editorial style will dictate your conclusion. Newspapers, for example, are more interested in a strong introduction, because that is what will grab the reader’s attention. Everything that needs to be said should be done so early in the article, because the ending may be edited if there’s not enough space for the whole article. That doesn’t mean the ending should be weak, but it’s not as important as the opening.
A short story will very often depend on a surprise ending for its appeal, so the conclusion obviously needs to be terrific. A novel may or may not have a surprise ending, and its climax may actually come some pages before the final conclusion, which is really to wrap up loose ends, and leave the reader satisfied about what happens to all the characters.
Tips for writing a strong wrap-up:
- Short, punchy sentences are usually best.
- This isn’t the place to add more information!
- If you are finishing a short story or novel with a twist (a surprise ending), put it as close to the last sentence as you can.
- The genre and pace of your story will influence the ending. A story that has ambled along at a gentle rhythm is going to end more slowly to a rapid action thriller.
- Your readers will want to know what happens to each of your main characters.
- If you have any intention of writing a sequel, some clue about the main character’s futures may act as a hook.
Package your writing successfully, and it will definitely help to reach the desired destination: your readers.
Note: This is a repeat blog.