How To End a Story

I was recently given the challenge of writing about endings.  How does one end a story in a satisfying way?  I’m not sure if I’m the best one to ask since I haven’t finished any project of note or scope.  A few of my short stories are complete, but most of them aren’t very good.  However, I’ll do my best.

Stories revolve around conflict.  Sometimes the conflict is very small, like misplacing your keys and trying to find them before you are late for work, or the conflict could be huge, spanning star systems and deciding the fate of entire worlds.  Most stories fall somewhere between the two.  Fantasy does tend to go large-scale with some kind of threat to the world or at least to the local kingdom.

A story begins usually just before the conflict is introduced.  We see what is “normal” and then something happens that creates conflict for the character.  They lose their job, they are taken out of slavery, they become a slave, they gain or lose a kingdom.  The conflict introduced may bring them positive changes, like in Mercedes Lackey’s Dragon Jousters series.  A boy name Vetch is a serf, bound to the land under a harsh master, but that changes when a Dragon Jouster comes to his home and takes him on as a servant to help tend the great dragons.  Obviously Vetch will be facing a new set of challenges, but his lot has improved from his previous state of serfdom.  Or the conflict could be more negative and dangerous.  Richard Mayhew in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is living a perfectly ordinary life until he stumbles across an injured girl named Door.  He takes care of her and she’s out of his life in less than 24 hours, but as a result, he suddenly becomes invisible to the upper world.  His good deed costs him his fiancée, his job, his money, his home, his very existence as a normal person.  Because of this unfortunate turn of events, he must descend into the dangerous London Below to try to get his life back.

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