Elements of the End:

Listener Request by Brian Allan

Essential Elements of Climax & Resolution:


In his book James Scott Bell makes this statement:

“there’s one word that sums up the feeling readers crave in an ending, it’s satisfaction. The word is broad enough to include any type of ending, so long as it is one that leaves the reader in a positive emotional state about the reading experience as a whole.”

So you have to ask yourself where does your reader want satisfaction? What parts of the story are they craving for satisfaction from? We’ve got a list and we’ll work through them: author’s promise, questions answered, protagonist choice, genre expectations, relationship resolutions. Before we dig in, let’s look at a few general types of endings.

Types of Endings: And they satisfy

  • The protagonist doesn't get what he wants, but what he needs. (Loses, but it’s good)

    • Cars: Lightning McQueen loses the piston cup, but finds happiness

      • Why this type of ending?

        • This often a teaching point or moral of the story.

  • The protagonist gets what he wants and has worked towards. (Wins)

    • Harry Potter: Defeats Voldemort

      • Such happy endings don’t always satisfy, think Deus Ex Machina, those are happy endings that don’t satisfy.

        • Why write this type of ending?

          • This is a straightforward story. They can be enjoyable, and a lot of tension and suspense can hang on the central question. This is the style of epic quests.

  • The protagonist doesn’t get what he wants, but what he deserves, teaches a moral lesson to the audience (Loses, Tragedy)

    • Hamlet: dies at the end

      • Why this type of ending?

        • Similar to the protagonist-loses-but-it’s-good this about a moral lesson, only with a sad ending instead of a happy one.

  • The protagonist gets what he wants, but it’s bad (Wins, but bad. Tragedy - most stories don't’ stop here)

    • Once again moral is taught about the dangers of getting what we want or wanting the wrong things. These are usually not the end and part of a larger story.

      • Example: the story of Maleficent when she was a child and her friend cut off her wings so could gain the kinds of favor. The story doesn’t end there. Novels will sometimes end this way when they are part of a series.

  • The protagonist sacrifices: The victory costs something dear to the protagonist

    • These stories create a complicated ending, that can be more enjoyable with repetitions. Readers walk away with a bittersweet feeling, and that can bring them back for another read.

    • It can also be part of the protagonist earning the reward.

  • Open-ended: how the final events play out, and their meaning is unclear, and the audience fills in those blanks with their own imaginations.

    • Perhaps most famously is the Great Gatsby.

      • What does all this mean for Nik and the others? We don’t know.

      • Why?

        • It can lead to conversation and a variety of interpretations of the work, but they are usually less satisfying.

  • We will do an episode on each type of ending and dig deeper this just a summary

    • https://writerswrite.co.za/how-to-write-a-story-with-a-great-open-ending/

    • The Cliffhanger – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

    • The Ambiguous Ending – The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    • The Happy Ending – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

      • Goal achieved and good

      • Goal failed but good

    • The Tragedy - Hamlet

    • The Epilogue – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

    • The Unexpected Twist Ending – Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Ending First?

We all have different writing styles, but Pixar has a rule, #7 “Ending First.” The reason for this is endings are hard, they have to satisfy, otherwise no matter well the rest of it goes, the audience won’t be happy. (The last 50 pages, by James Scott Bell)

Author Promise:

What type of story did you promise you would tell [The authors promise episode], and does the ending meet that expectation?

  • Have you hit the critical scenes of your genre?

  • Does your ending type meet the style of your genre?

    • Are you writing happily-ever-after? Then you need a happily-ever-after.

    • If you’re writing Reverse Harem, the girl can’t end up with just one guy.

  • In the opening of your book, you make a promise about what kind of story you are going to tell, the ending needs to match that.

    • Red Sparrow.

      • Starts as a classic Spy story.

        • Genre dictates that the fate of the world, possible wars, nuclear bombs, etc… will be at stake, but the world will not know. It will all take place in the shadows.

      • In Red Sparrow what is at stake is the relationship between the main characters.

        • Prime Rating 3.5 stars [Amazon average is 4.2]

        • IMDB rating 6.5 out of 10.

      • Is it a bad or poorly written story? No, but it promises to be a spy story and ends up being a love story. The author’s promise is broken, and the audience was unhappy about that.

    • I’m not a Serial Killer, And the Author you’ve never heard of

      • Full Discussion in Audio

Questions Answered:

 What questions haven’t been answered yet?

Protagonist Choice

Does the protagonist choice drive the events of the climax?

Genre Expectations: 

Does it meet genre expectations? Readers of a genre expect certain things for reading in that genre, do you meet them with your climax?

“The fabric of the universe must be at stake.”

The couple ends up together

Relationship Resolutions:

 What important relationships of any kind exist in the book, how is each resolved? Protagonist vs. Antagonist. Protagonist and Sidekick, sidekick and friend etc…

Do they deserve it?

Has the antagonist done enough harm, caused enough trouble so I feel they get what they deserve in the end? The Wheel of Time: Balzaman vs. 13 Black Isadie.

Has the protagonist endured enough that he deserves the rewards of the victor?

Ask this question of each resolution/relationship

Wrap it all up:

Conclude all your story arcs that should end in this story. That’s pretty simple and straight forward, but let’s go deep and look at the basic principles or a conclusion.

Did they deserve it? The punishment, the reward, the change, whatever it was did they earn it, or is it too much, or too little?

List out your characters, their plots, and subplots and make sure you cover them all. Some authors keep journals of these events so they don’t miss any.

Don’t Out Shine the Ending:

Your ending and climax need to be the biggest, most epic moment in the story. If you think of something better and put it in the middle, the ending won’t satisfy.