Monday, June 8, 2020

8 Types of Endings for Your Novel: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If you’ve ever struggled with getting the ending to your story right, then you know how difficult it can be. Writing isn’t always a walk in the park; sometimes it feels like you’re running 26.2 miles of an up-hill marathon!

There are many ways to end a book and none of them are universally good nor evil, but readers have grown to love and expect certain types of endings more than others. This guide to novel endings will show you which ones are the best and which ones are more challenging. Not only challenging for the reader to accept, but also challenging for the writer to pull off.
  1. Happily Ever After Ending
  2. Twist Ending
  3. Circular Ending
  4. Interpretive Ending
  5. Epilogue
  6. Cliffhanger “Ending”
  7. Abrupt Ending
  8. Combination


The four best ways to end your story are one of these four types of story endings.

1. Happily Ever After

Definition: The number one way readers love to see a story end is the Happily Ever After, also known as HEA. This ending resolves all the major conflict and wraps up all the subplots into a nice, neat bow. The ending ties up all the loose ends and answers any lingering questions.

Best For: This ending is most often used in standalone novels for any age (MG, YA, and Adult), romance, and the final book in a series.

Examples: The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, We Met in December by Rosie Curtis, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

2. The Twist

Definition: The twist ending is a reader favorite because people love surprises. Just make sure it doesn’t come out of nowhere. The ending still has to be satisfying and it has to make sense. It’s not a fool-proof excuse to kill off a character just because you don’t want your ending to be predictable.

Best For: This type of novel ending is often used in suspense thrillers and mysteries. But that’s not the only genre it can be used in. Picture books often use twist endings too, usually summed up in a single sentence implying a future escapade of some sort.

Examples: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

3. Circular

Definition: The circular type of ending is when the end of a story ties back to the beginning. It’s usually when the character ends up back where they started. Perhaps the MC had an opportunity to take a new route into their future, but they decide - after the course of events in the story - to return to their old ways… with a newfound insight on a better life, despite returning to their roots.

Best For: This ending is most often used in character-driven novels or literary novels.

Examples: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

4. Interpretive

Definition: An interpretive ending is ambiguous. It leaves readers wondering what really happened. Yes, the ending may be clear, but a portion of it could be interpreted in different ways, kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure type of ending. Ultimately, this type of ending leaves the reader with thoughtful questions.

Best For: This ending is most often used in literary novels or when the author wants the reader to reflect on the meaning of the book and to let the themes simmer in the reader’s mind for a while.

Examples: Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, The Giver by Lois Lowry.


Novels with an epilogue or a cliffhanger for an ending are considered bad protocol by most. That’s not to say you can’t do it. You can do whatever you want. But knowing when to use them can be helpful.

5. Epilogue

Definition: This type of ending can be described as an extended or expanded ending. The book ends like normal, but then there’s an epilogue to tell more about what happens down the road. The best example I can come up with here is movies. Especially ones based on a true story. At the end of the movie, it’ll say something like, “Brad went on to create a successful business and he had 3 children.” In a novel, it’s usually no more than 3 printed pages.

Best For: This ending is most often used when the author has more to say about the characters, but there won’t be a series. It’s great for standalone novels, but most editors consider epilogues unnecessary. Don’t write one just because you feel like it. Make sure the story needs it.

Examples: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

6. Cliffhanger

Definition: The cliffhanger is an ending that leaves the reader begging for more. Things are left unresolved. It’s a very controversial type of ending. Most readers hate it. Editors too. Make sure there’s a good reason for ending this way. It leaves the reader with a bad taste in their mouth and often won’t return to that author’s books anymore. It’s a whole lot less pleasant than the interpretive ending.

Best For: This ending is most often used in series. At least that’s where the cliffhanger can work FOR the writer (and the reader). Just make sure the final book in the series is a Happily Ever After ending.

Examples: Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland, Spirit Animals by various authors, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling


These two types of novel endings aren’t necessarily the worst, but they aren’t the best either.

7. Abrupt

Definition: A novel with an abrupt ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it leaves the ribbon untied. No pretty bow to look at. It feels unfinished. It feels like the joy is snatched out from under you.

Best For: This ending is most often used in literary novels and/or by seasoned authors.

Examples: The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis.

8. Combination

Definition: The combination ending can include multiple endings mentioned above. For example, sometimes a cliffhanger and a twist ending might be combined. Or a circular ending combined with a twist ending.

Best For: This ending is most often used by seasoned veteran authors.

Examples: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (circular and twist ending).

What’s your favorite type of ending to read? To write? Share your comment here.

Keep on keepin' on...


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