Every story has an ending. Smash-bang stories, however, will have smash-bang endings. By smash-bang, I don’t mean action-packed, surprising, or emotional. (Though a smash-bang ending can be this way). When I say “smash-bang ending,” what I really mean is that the ending is influential and changes the reader, makes the reader contemplative, and/or leaves the reader questioning previously held assumptions.
How do we get to this ending? Well, first I encourage you to check out the “basics” lessons on the Three Act Structure – #3, #7, #8, and #9 – to learn about plot, leading up to the ending, and character development. (These are all essential to writing a smash-bang ending).
If you’ve read many/most of The Write Nook’s lessons, you’ll know that we like to reference Aristotle’s three-act structure and Jeff Gerke’s “door of no return” theory. There is one door-of-no-return between acts one and two, and a second door-of-no-return between acts two and three. After this second Door is when your smash-bang ending will commence.
One of the biggest elements of a smash-bang ending is the show-down.
Depending on what genre you’re writing, your show-down could look like many different things. However, every genre will incorporate some kind of show-down – which is a major conflict that has some kind of resolution. Your conflict may be internal, external, spiritual, cultural, romance-driven, or incorporated in a cliff-hanger. But in any case, your show-down needs to leave the readers with some form of intrigue and (NOT “or”) satisfaction. It needs to intrigue your readers in the sense that it needs to make them THINK. About life, about the theme addressed, etc. It needs to satisfy your reader in one of two ways: first, that the story is concluded (whether or not the ending is happy is irrelevant; a reader needs to be satisfied that they have completed the journey); or second, that the story will continue (either in that you will write a sequel, or in that they are going to “continue” the story on their own – as some books are meant to leave the reader to answer the “big question,” having simply been exposed to a new/insightful view of the topic/theme).
Tidbits for writing the best show-down for your story:
- Look at other show-downs and endings within your genre. (For our basic lesson on genre, check out lesson #33). Remember, you’re looking for the major conflict – something that ties the whole book together. This is the moment the reader has been waiting for (or, at least, building up to). Study show-downs within the broader context of genre. Determine what works and what doesn’t. Determine what elements are most helpful/satisfactory to you as a reader.
- Ask someone (preferably someone who understands the basics of literature and stories) to read your novel up to the show-down; then ask how you would like that person to see the novel end. Use these suggestions to our best advantage – try to satisfy the reader while surprising the reader.
- Write several different versions of the show-down. Play around with it. Try writing it in different POVs. Try incorporating different plot twists. You don’t need to use any/all of them. But you never know what might strike inspiration for a smash-bang show-down.
Keep your eyes peeled for more info on writing a smash-bang ending!
With pen to paper,
Kayla R. Woodhouse