Writing a book is difficult, but trying to pick an ending that is both impactful and wraps the plot up beautifully is even more difficult. Beginning your book is important, but ending it can be equally so. Relying on clichés won’t get the job done. As an author, you’ll only leave your readers feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.
Make sure to stay away from these five cliché endings:
The Happily Ever After
What It Is: All of the characters in your book live happily ever, with no hardships to bear. You’ll find the hero in this ending has defeated everyone and all of the plot twists you’ve worked so hard to write have been tied up nicely — but they’re also usually tied up very unrealistically.
Why to Avoid It: Life doesn’t necessarily end happily ever after, which makes this type of ending feel disingenuous. You want your readers to feel enthralled with your book so that they’ll want to buy more from your library or even read the same book again. Real people always have troubles, so make sure that your book stays in realm of realism.
The Drawn-out Dream
What It Is: The drawn-out dream ending is a cliché that usually has the main character waking up safe and sound in their bed, having realized that the entire plot up until that point has just been a dream.
Why to Avoid It: This type of ending typically annoys readers, who feel that the author has copped out. A book should be emotional to everyone involved, and an author who uses this ending seems to betray readers’ trust and cheapen the deep emotions that person has felt throughout the book.
The Killing Hero
What It Is: This is the cliché ending where the hero gets incredibly strong or lucky and kills off everything that ever stood in his or her way. He either accomplishes this task himself, or he is instrumental in orchestrating a plan that saves the world.
Why to Avoid It: This ending is just overdone, making it one of the top clichés no one wants to see when they finish a book. Authors need to avoid this ending because it’s just not realistic. It’s pretty anti-climactic and leaves the reader feeling excited for a little while, but that the book sizzled out overall. This ending just doesn’t engage the reader.
The Guilty Hero’s Monologue
What It Is: This cliché ending is where the hero finally defeats the bad guy or force, but you get to hear his internal thoughts of regret or remorse. This monologue is supposed to show the character’s guilt at what he’s had to do, and how this is eating away at him (or her). Even though the ending is happy, our hero must now live with all the blood and sins on his hands.
Why to Avoid It: In general, writers should strive to show, not tell, readers what is happening in the book. By strongarming readers into feeling specific, manufactured emotions, you are taking away their freedom to experience the novel in a way that is reflective of their background and experiences. Readers feel like they are being led to specific conclusions, and not many enjoy the feeling of an author holding their hand throughout a book — especially the ending.
The Lover’s Life
What It Is: In the lover’s life cliché ending, you’ll find that the end of your novel involves the main character falling in love, for an unexplained and often random reason, and then living happily ever after. It’s a twist that shows that true love makes the world go ‘round and that all that happened throughout the course of the book was worth it.
Why to Avoid It: Again, unrealistic endings tend to annoy readers. If a love interest is too sudden, it isn’t all that real. If it is unexplained, it leaves your characters lacking depth. The truth is that not everyone falls in love and lives happily ever after. The best endings are unique, seemingly realistic, and really make your readers think.
So the next time you are tempted to end your book with an easy, clichéd ending, don’t. Set the text aside, brainstorm some unique possibilities, and pick up your manuscript again when you have a more interesting picture of what could be.