Monday, January 27, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well

A writer friend admitted it was time to write the ending in her long WIP, but she had no idea how to end it.

It’s her story! And she doesn’t know how it ends?

Then I realized she had given me a gift: a blog idea. Instructions: Slap heel of palm to forehead and repeat after me. “Of course I don’t know, but my characters know.”

Characters work toward a goal their entire existence. So, give them what they want, a satisfying solution, a happy ending, or a meaningful death. Embellish at will. Several ending styles are especially popular. Bring the opening focus around to the ending, wind it up, conclude where you started off with no loose ends or unresolved issues. Most authors do this. Your ending may not be the reader’s choice, but readers can mull it over. They may come to agree.

Such was the ending of Jodi Picoult’s Plain Truth. An Amish girl is accused of murdering her newborn baby, born out of wedlock. The title says it all. The ending though tortured by each character’s POV is resolved by the culture in which she was raised. I gained a great deal of respect for the Amish, and I came to accept Jodi’s ending as the only solution, regardless of the nagging feeling that I might have written it differently.

Some of us write with an ending in mind, which is probably the best way. We have a plan, an agenda, a message, a brand for concluding a certain way. Jodi Picoult’s endings are always logical. Romance writers leave us in a happy place. Mystery writers reveal the culprit and deliver justice. History dictates the possible endings for historical or cultural fiction.

Personally, I like thought-provoking endings. In fact, I have found myself praying for some of my characters. They’re like family.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and their 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea is available from MuseItUp Publishing in e-book or paperback; Morning After Midnight in e-book. Visit Julie’s Web site at


Big Mike said...

For me, I've visualized the beginning and end before I start. Have to when you write suspense so all leads and hints link together in the finale.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Victoria Roder said...

I wish I knew where my story was going and would out line, but my brain doesn't work like that. I don't know the end when I start. I'm a panser and the characters take over.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

HEA is okay, but I think your thought provoking ending engages the reader more.

Liz Fountain said...

I admire mystery and thriller writers, who construct logical and emotionally satisfying (or provoking) endings. I just finished a Le Carre book and the ending was so up in the air, at first I ranted a bit. Then I realized my experience as the reader was the same as the character's at the end. Maybe that's why he chose the ending he did?

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thanks, everyone, for your input.

Liz, I like to remain intrigued, but there's a difference between thought provoking and playing fair with the reader.

Better to end reading and remember the book than to finish it with a growl.

Anonymous said...

I always know the end, but I often struggle with the ending. That is, I know who murdered the victim and how, but I'm not always sure how the clues will be revealed. That's why I end up rewriting backwards.