Write an Ending That’s Right for Your Book


On occasion, writers try too hard to write a twist at the ending of the book. It comes in the form of a cliffhanger or departs from the audience-capturing content already written in prior chapters.

The important issue at hand is don’t. Forget the cliffhanger unless you’re planning a sequel, and forget the plot twist unless it jives with the other 70,000 words just written. Unless you’re planning to write an ending that’s true to what came before, then the book will fall flat.

Hemingway once noted how he rewrote A Farewell to Arms’ ending over 40 times. Why did he do it? Hemingway understood the importance of “getting the words right.” He took advantage of human biology, where our brain function is primed to remember the last thing seen . If the ending tanks, then despite the book’s high quality, the reader is less likely to return to future works written.

Contemplate some movies of the past, where the movie was exceptional but the public’s perception of the ending opened debate for years to come.

I Am Legend (2007) is a fine dystopian movie featuring Will Smith, and is an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same title. The novel itself inspired many great movies over the decades, but the 2007 adaptation’s ending leaves audiences feeling deflated. Seeing the hero blow himself up in the name of martyrdom (when he didn’t actually need to), has left many a fan of this movie shaking their head.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) is admittedly a favourite of mine, but the ending! Urgh. The book, for which they base the movies, had so many unique aspects that captivated readers twice over . . . and then hit them with the but it was all a dream ending. A cliche that killed the story’s impact.

Hemingway understood how the brain generally attaches the quality of a piece of work to the ending. It’s no different to the Olympic gymnast executing the best performance of their life and then stumbling on the landing. Writing works on the same premise.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kenneth T. says:

    I Am Legend did have an alternate ending… one where he lived.
    I think it would have been better to leave it.

    btw – killing the dog off, Baahd idea. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aral Bereux says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

      Liked by 1 person

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