Posted in Short Story Writing, Writing

How To Give Your Short Stories A Neat Ending

how to neatly end your short stories

Just like beginning a short story, the ending should have some sort of purpose as well. It doesn’t do well to just say, “The End.”

No, the ending should do much more than that. It should…

  • Be satisfying
  • Close all the doors, wrapping everything up neatly
  • Make the story as a whole make sense

How do you do that?

There are so many different ways you can end your short story, but we’ll just talk about a few.

THE TWIST OR SURPRISE

When it comes to short stories, sometimes you need a little kick in your ending to make it that much more interesting because it’s so short. If there’s room, allow for a surprise or some sort of twist. Let it click inside your readers’ heads and have them say, “Ohh! I get it now!”

Of course, you can’t just throw in any random twist. It needs to be something the readers could have seen coming if they read between the lines.

I read a short story in middle school once in my reading class (unfortunately, I can’t remember the name or the author) and it was a man doing some sort of social experiment. He was locked in a room and had to figure out how to get out even though there was absolutely nothing in the room. I think it was to test his logical thinking or whatever.

Anyway, being 11-years-old, I thought it was extremely boring. But I remember the ending.

After being locked in for so many hours, they finally let the man out. He had tried absolutely anything and everything to get out and couldn’t figure it out. The narrator does a quick summary of what the man did and what the results were for the scientists. Then, I remember the last line clear as day, everything was explained: “For the door was never locked.”

Talk about an interesting surprise. I can’t remember anything about the story, just the basic gist of it and that last line. That’s how you do a surprise ending.

RESOLVING ACTION

This is a must for all endings. Unless there is going to be some sort of sequel for your short story, you can leave it off at a slight cliffhanger (but be sure to resolve some things).

However, every question must be answered. Everyone conflict must have a resolution. The plot should be explained in one way or another throughout the story, or at least make it fairly simple for the readers to figure out.

This is, again, a must. And I don’t really have any tips on how to do so because it’s up to you, your writing style, and your plot.

SHORT AND SIMPLE

Sometimes a simple “The End” is all that’s needed. I know I said otherwise at the beginning, but depending on what your story is about and how it’s written, something short and simple may not be a bad idea.

As long as the conflict is resolved and there are no loose ends, you can get away with backing out of your story slowly, but surely.

IMAGINATIVE

Wrap up the conflict, but still allow your readers to wonder what could happen next. This is something I often do with my Short Story Sundays here on the blog only because (ironically enough) I don’t know how to properly end them.

I get many comments asking the next part will be posted and I always say the same thing, “This was it. Use your imagination on what could happen next. Feel free to write it yourself.”

I don’t know how often this is done, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do once in a while. If you can write your characters so well that your readers fall in love with them, then you can sometimes get away with leaving an ending open like this. Your readers will want the story to continue in a way so they’ll imagine what your characters do next.

Again, just make sure that you wrap up the actual plot and conflict. Don’t leave that open-ended.

In conclusion…

And so, the blogger who worked all day and all night to create awesome content finally came to an end about her short story series.

That’s about it because she couldn’t figure out how to end her post about endings. She was really good at this.

She kicked back with a satisfied grin and then realized one more thing: she still had one more post to write about for her short story series.

(Guys, did you see what I did there? I added an outro instead of an intro. You know, because we’re talking about “endings.” Pretty clever, right?)

How do you typically go about ending your short stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

24 thoughts on “How To Give Your Short Stories A Neat Ending

  1. Haha pretty clever yes. Its the ending that’s always the hardest. How to leave a lasting impression on the reader, like that line you still remember about the door being locked. If there’s no emotion or contemplative thought at the end, then I personally think you’ve failed to complete the story.

    And it must make sense without readers going “Huh?” when they finish.

  2. I found this really helpful. If it is a full blown novel, you can just keep going and going but tying up a short story is tricky. I think I would lean towards the short and simple most the time 🙂

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful. 🙂
      Yes, short stories can be so hard to end. You want to keep it short and to the point, but you want to make sure you’ve cleared everything up.

  3. Great post and analysis. Here’s one more:-)
    “Bookending” is a rather specific technique. Where your first and last paragraph are almost identical. However, the final paragraph bears a different meaning from the first.

  4. Thank you for these tips! I’m not sure I agree completely with you on resolving every question — it brought to mind the 6-word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” which raises all the questions and answers none. But then again, every story is different, and so will need more or less resolution for its own questions/conflicts.

    1. That’a true. Then again, not much can be said with a six-word story. Still, I do agree with you. There are some stories that it’s nice to have the readers imagine what would happen or infer the next course of action by the characters.
      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      1. Depends on story, I’d say! Sometimes, a lot more is said in six words than a whole six pages 🙂 But yes, the above of course applies to some stories. It would be frustrating if a writer depended on open endings all the time!

      2. Oh, definitely. Every story (and writer) is different. And yeah, it would be annoying if a writer chose the same style each and every time, lol.

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