The End: Wrapping Up a Story by Dianna Sinovic

When you sit down to write a short story, do you have the ending in mind? Or do you let the story unroll and discover where it’s going only when you get there?

Endings are my biggest challenge, and I suspect a major challenge for many writers. I have rewritten endings time and again, each draft moving the needle a little closer to what finally works.

At a recent writers conference, one panel, led by Rachel A. Brune of Crone Girls Press, focused on tips for “sticking the ending.” I’ll share some of what they said, as well as what others advise.

One panelist noted that the ending is especially crucial in a short story because it shows the reader that they haven’t been wasting their time. On the other hand, a novel may suffer less with a weak ending because the reader is more willing to forgive if the rest of the book is solid. (Not that you want a weak ending for your novel!)

Another panelist suggested thinking of a short story as a conversation with the reader. In an actual conversation, it would be rude to just walk away, so don’t do that with a story by leaving the reader hanging.

And a third panelist advised reading the ending of the story and then the beginning to see if they connect (they should). If they don’t, then it’s time for further revision.

In a post on Writers Digest, author Garnett Kilberg Cohen offered other tips about story endings. 

Cohen advises writing the ending in a way that suggests the story isn’t really over, or that creates a mood or idea about what might happen next. Although in a novel, the expectation is that the main character will undergo a transformation by the book’s end, the limited word count in a short story may not realistically allow that. 

Endings can be classified in several ways, according to Master Class:

  • The resolved ending. Everything is wrapped up by the end, although that doesn’t mean the ending is a “happily-ever-after” one.
  • The unresolved ending. This is more common in a book series, to carry the story forward to the next book.
  • The unexpected ending. This is usually called the twist, but such an ending must be set up with clues or your reader may feel cheated. A twist, according to the conference panelists, must lead the story to make more sense.
  • The expanded ending. This is often done in long form as an epilogue and can jump forward in time.
  • The ambiguous ending. This is an ending that’s open to different interpretations.
  • The tied ending. This ending loops the story back to its beginnings.

On LitHub, author Allegra Hyde argues that paying attention to time can help you craft a strong ending that resonates with the reader. You can do this in one of three ways:

  • Through flashback – the ending looks back at some relevant point in time
  • Through present story time – the ending maintains the same chronological line of the story
  • Or through future time – the ending looks forward beyond the story

Whichever ending type or advice you use, keep in mind that your first draft of an ending is often the easiest approach. For a stronger finale, consider writing several alternative endings to see which one may work better as the last word.

Dianna Sinovic is an author, certified book coach, and editor based in southeastern Pennsylvania. She writes short stories in several genres, including mystery, horror, paranormal, and speculative fiction, and has been published in a number of anthologies. Her flash fiction appears monthly on the blog A Slice of Orange. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Horror Writers Association, and the Bethlehem Writers Group. Her website is

12 thoughts on “The End: Wrapping Up a Story by Dianna Sinovic”

  1. Great tips, Dianna. Nothing is more frustrating than a good story with a weak ending. Thanks for your suggestions.

  2. Endings are so important. So many times I’ve read a story and after reading the non-ending end and regretted wasting my time on the whole story. An author’s beginning sucks me into the story, but the ending determines if I read another.

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