HOW TO END A SHORT STORY 

Short story

Short stories (provided they are well written) are refreshing little treats that can help you escape your daily routine without having to read a huge novel. If you’ve already worked through the core of your story and are unsure of what to do next, remember that even the best writers have faced similar challenges at times.

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Part 1:

1.1. Re-read everything that you have already written. This will help refresh your memory and allow you to determine what you already have and what else needs to be added. Ask yourself a few questions as you read:

  • What is the purpose of this story? In other words, what do you want your readers to understand as a result of reading it?
  • Do you want to make an abrupt or unexpected ending? Do you want to leave the ending indefinite, unfinished? Or would you like to end your story with the happiest denouement that can be?

1.2. Think about the genre of your story. Is this literary fiction? Science fiction? Novel? The genre of your story can help you determine the most appropriate ending. The ending should relate to what the rest of your story has promised readers. 

  • If you are not sure which ending is typical for the chosen genre, then look at some popular author (for example Stephen King (horror) or Flannery O’Connor (fiction)) and read some of his works. You can learn a lot simply by examining the endings in the works of other authors.

1.3. Work out the structure of your story. Write short descriptive phrases summarizing each scene and important turning points. For example: “Leonidas goes to the store for bread, but soon discovers that he forgot his wallet at home; he returns and meets a stranger on his porch.” Such a scheme will help to establish the “skeleton” of the story: what exactly and with whom exactly is happening, and so on – all this will be useful when deciding on the ending.

Part 2:

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Work out possible ideas using brainstorming techniques. At this stage, there is absolutely no need to strive to get completely finished and verified proposals. Your goal is to explore multiple possibilities, so jot down any ideas you might have, no matter how vague, silly, or unconventional they may seem at first glance. There are many different possibilities for generating ideas, so it’s worth trying out a few and see which one works best for you!

2.1. You might find it helpful to draw a “mind map,” either with a pencil on paper or on a computer. Start with what you know well (characters, events, locations) and assign each element a separate oval. Begin adding details and questions by drawing connecting lines between the ovals to show the connections between ideas. 

You can also try writing some keywords on flashcards or small pieces of paper. Practice placing these cards in different combinations and see if you like the other options!

Check your results. Think about your ideas, look again at themes, images, recurring aspects. Are there any ideas or characters among them that seem to be the most important? Most likely, they will have to be worked out in the ending.

2.2. If you have questions when choosing a development vector, then try to make a list of everything that your characters want. Characters with strong ambitions or needs grab the audience’s attention. [3] Well-known author Kurt Vonnegut once said: “Every character should want something, even if it’s just a glass of water.” [4] Ask yourself: Did the characters get what they want? What might happen next, given the current circumstances of the characters?

If you still can’t get the ending, then try to understand exactly what problems or topics are covered in your story. If the problem still exists, then answer the question: how can it be solved? [5] (You can think of something similar to the Harry Potter books: if the problem is Voldemort wants to take over the world, then what should to be a denouement?)

2.3. Present the material in free writing. After you’ve decided which direction you want your story to take and have some ideas, sit down and just jot down non-stop for 30 minutes or so. Try to write the entire ending, but do not worry about the literacy of your sentences or about correcting spelling mistakes. Concentrate on presenting your ideas in an orderly way. [6]

  • You may find it helpful to set an alarm. After your time is up, take a break and then return to what you wrote.
  • Try writing for 30 minutes without stopping to edit. What you get will most likely be unattractive, however, it is still useful to get the whole idea of ​​the whole in writing, without disrupting the flow of thought.

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