How do you figure out where and when to end your short story?
Endings — The long and the Short!
What makes up the ending in a story? Let’s start with the definition and how the definition can relate to the story. The logic here tells you to create boundaries in your story that will lead to a definitive ending or conclusion.
The word Ending, according to Merriam-Webster: The definition of ENDING is something that constitutes an end: such as; conclusion; one or more letters or syllables added to a word base.
This tells you that an ending is obvious, like a stop sign. Logic tells you the ending in the story will cue the reader that the immediate story is over or is coming to the end.
They know it is over because you have created a feeling of completeness, finality, closure, or a sense of rebirth, in that, there is no coming back from that metaphorical death.
Death to the old — birth to the new, although it could be literal depending on the type of story you are telling.
There has been an obvious change to the character and/or world around them or both, resulting in a positive or negative consequence.
What is the difference in finding endings in shorter or longer fiction?
The first obvious difference is the number of words you have to use to get the story ending told.
As a writer, you already know most of your words written go toward the story middle, while a lesser percentage of the words used are at the beginning and the least in the ending.
The shorter the story, the fewer words used to bring the story to its end.
Flash fiction endings are going to be short and quick and/or clever. Short stories have a little more lead-in or build up. The bigger the story means you can spend a little more time and detail on the ending.
How to figure out the story ending?
The Flash Fiction
Five hundred words are the most common word count request for those seeking flash fiction, but it can go up to one thousand words.
You have a few words to tell an engaging or satisfying story to your reader.
Find your ending by asking yourself whose story are you telling? What does your character want or what is their end goal?
What are the story stakes? What will it cost your character?
What does the character have to overcome to reach the story’s goal or solve the overall story problem?
Why are you telling this story? Understand why you care about the story you are telling. It will show in your writing.
What problem or story question did you set up in the beginning? What overall picture do you want this short story to paint?
If you know it, you can ask what is the theme of the story? You may or may not know this, this also can help you pinpoint an ending.
Take these questions and create word lists from your answers as they pop into your head. Do not censor your response. Write it down.
Use that word list to mind-map drawing association to words that might lead you to your ending. Look for the unexpected.
📌I use the Scrapple mind-mapping tool that makes it fun and easy. I love words. This is NOT an affiliate link.
Pen and paper will work too. I just like keeping it all in one project, because I use Scrivener. I can import Scrapple to Scrivener.
You can Google the term mind-mapping to find other similar software, some with more whistles and bells, but Scrapple is my favorite. I like its simplicity.
In flash fiction, the ending might be a shocking ending, it might be ironic, whimsical, or clever.
The key thing it must do is make your reader glad they spent-time reading the story. They need to feel a sense of satisfaction or closure at the end.
I🎭 learned to write flash fiction taking this Free 3-week flash fiction course. Plus lots of practice. I am still practicing and learning. This is an affiliate link.
Holly’s Flash Fiction course helped me improve my scene writing in my bigger works.
The Short Story
What is the story problem or question? In a short story, the focus is on one problem, and once you resolve that problem or answer the question, the story ends.
In the short story, you may have three to four scenes depending on the word count of your scenes to bring the story to its conclusion.
The same techniques that work in flash fiction will work here. The difference is you just have a few more words to get the ending told.
Larger Stories: Novelette to Novel
You have a lot more room here to explore and play with your endings. The same tools can work here for figuring out the end.
Getting to the end gets more complicated, as you have several characters and situations to play with.
You can create lists from different characters’ points of view to mind-map. Start with your main character.
When I read this article, I found it helpful when thinking about endings.
💻Writing the Ending for a Short Story By Dave Hood—How do you write an ending for your short story? There is no single method of ending a story.