What makes a “good” ending?

Just before I started writing this, I watched the first trailer for the upcoming film Avengers: Endgame. It looks to be as good or better than Avengers: Infinity War. If you’re not a superhero or Marvel Comics fan then please bear with me for a few more sentences. In the first few lines of the trailer, Tony Stark (Ironman) states that “part of the journey is the end.”

To me that strikes true. Seldom do readers really appreciate the end of a book. If the novel was especially endearing to that reader, the reader might be very sad or angry about it ending. There have been a few times in my life when I turned that final page and found no more words, only the back cover. Each of those times I sat there looking at the back cover thinking “What? That can’t be the end.”

Some readers might sit there appreciating the ending because it was so perfect. I’ve had that experience only once or twice. You sit sit there thinking about the story and the fact that there was only one real way to tie everything together and that’s the one the author wrote. Such an ending is unique and should be cherished. When I first read Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” I rushed through the book in one weekend. It’s a fairly large book, totaling in around 845 pages. It came out in 2004 and at that point I was still living at home. I remember spending most of that weekend on the couch. For those that don’t know, “The Dark Tower” finished King’s seven book epic tale of Roland and his quest to save the Dark Tower from the evil Crimson King. The series started in 1982 and finished 32 years later. It wasn’t just a series that King created, but a universe. We all know that the Marvel films are entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those seven books are the backbone of the King Literary Universe (KLU sounds a bit dull but I work with what I’m given). 

I knew when I started the book that some of the main characters were going to die. King is very merciless when it comes to the survival of his characters. When it came to execute those characters, and die they did, I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. Sure, I just graduated high school and therefore an adult male. I cried at each and every death as if I actually knew them.

Endings are powerful things and need to be handled responsibly. Like Uncle Ben once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I know, I said no more comic book references after that last one. It’s true though. 

But how should authors handle that power? Well… you’ll just have to tune in next week because this is just the introduction to a new series I’m writing that discusses What Makes a Good Ending. I figured that it would an appropriate time to write the series since it’s the end of 2018. For now, let me leave you with a quote from “The Dark Tower” written by the King himself.

“There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal ‘Once upon a time.’ Endings are heartless. Ending is just another word for goodbye.”

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2 thoughts on “What makes a “good” ending?

  1. I love Stephen King. His thoughts on the craft of writing stays with me throughout my own writing experiences. I feel blasphemous for saying this but I don’t agree with him that endings are goodbyes. Sometimes they are the beginning especially in genres such as romance when the ending is the beginning of a “happily ever after” for those characters or couple.

    • I think a lot of books, unless they are going to be apart of a series, are often the last time we see those characters. Sometimes readers come back to visit and sometimes we never meet them again. Sort of like Doctor Sleep. We didn’t expect to see Danny again but then we did and it was glorious.

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