I gave a workshop at Sherborne Literary Festival last month and one of the subjects that came up most was how to deal with endings. How to come up with something that was satisfying to the story but not predictable. I must admit that I struggle with endings too, especially when I’m writing stories for the commercial market. I can remember wailing to my mother that I couldn’t write happy endings, I didn’t believe in them! I had sent a story to Woman’s Weekly which they returned with a very nice letter stating that they didn’t think it had a very happy ending. But I thought it did. The main character had a selfish boyfriend and in the end she left him. Wasn’t that happy? Apparently not. I didn’t see why then but I do now.
The main character wasn’t left feeling positive or moving on to a better place, she was still sad and things were going to be second best. That’s not happy enough.
Since then I’ve written about all sorts of subjects – eating disorders, dementia, addictions – and sold them all. I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve learned how to write ‘happy endings’, or as I prefer to call them ‘hopeful endings’. Things don’t work out perfectly, they don’t in real life but you have to leave the reader feeling hopeful, that through time, pulling together the characters will work things out. It’s about hope and love and understanding. Bear that in mind when you’re trying to find your ending.
I also find it helps if you go back to the beginning of your story and try and work out what it is you’re really trying to say. The answer is there somewhere, it’s up to you to mine down for the gold. That’s how I find my endings.
I hope this helps you find your own ‘happy ending’. Let me know how you get on.