Q/A #14: Perfect Ending

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This Q/A was taken from the chapter titled "TIP #14: Crafting the Perfect Ending."

Q: Is it okay to have an unhappy ending with a character that changes for the worse?

A: Do you intend to continue the story in a sequel or another installment where you plan to redeem this character? If not, does your story fully explain the shift in the character's behavior? In other words, will your readers understand why your character is the way he is by the story's end, and find this character rootable, or at the very least, still care about this character?

Keep these things in mind when writing this type of ending.


Q: I have a problem with concluding a story. I even have a problem with concluding chapters. If I leave them at a cliffhanger, they become too short. And then the reader loses interest because human psychology is that way-- walking through a door makes you forget what you were thinking about, as do new chapters. I lose a lot of readers because of that. Any advice?

A: If readers are interested in a story, if you have pulled them in, then they usually don't abandon it. You have to make sure that the story that you've written keeps them engaged. You don't have to use "chapter-ending" cliffhangers to achieve this. You have to make your readers care about your characters enough to want to invest time in getting to know them and read about them. Your chapters are there to serve this purpose. And the story in and of itself needs to present a conflict and show how its characters deal with that conflict. That's the basic aim of any story.

It's also important for you to remember that sometimes readers discontinue reading a story because the story ended up being nothing like they had originally anticipated. They gave that story a try and realized a few chapters in that it was not for them.

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