A friend recently asked how to tell when your story is finished. My knee-jerk answer was, ‘never’. Seems like there is always one more thing to tweak, one more sentence to swap around, one more story thread to tie in. And one more comma to add.
Realistically a story is finished when all the questions have been answered. When all the promises made to the reader have been fulfilled. And when the expected character growth has been reached.
I am one of those writers who knows the last line before I know the story as a whole, or how I am going to get to that last line. It’s like the dramatic ending, the final piece of dialog pops into my head as an answer to the ‘what if’ question, and then writing revolves around reaching that last line and what needs to happen to bring it to life. Which means I always know when the story is finished. But at the same time, the end feels more like a moment to pause and catch the breath than an actual ending. which is probably why series interest me more than stand-alone books.
One of the things that bothered me during my years as an EMT was that during a call we had a relationship with a person for only a brief time, and after the call, questions were never answered. I never found out how the people did, if they were able to put their lives back together, how they managed to move on from the event. Sure, some sent thank you cards but that was rare. The majority of the time the story never had an ending, happy or otherwise. The same thing holds true of reading newspaper articles. The reader gets dropped into the story and then there is rarely follow-up afterwards. I no longer read newspapers.
With writing though, there must be some sort of ending so the reader isn’t cheated. So how do you decide when your ending has been reached?

One thought on “Finite

  1. Well, thats my problem, I dont really know when or what or how I am ending my stories. But I guess for the first time I have a tiny clue and then there will be sequals…
    And this new clue to how to find an “end” to my story I learned from my “editor”/writing teacher/friend!! I have the feeling now that I finally know what I am doing. Because I never have anything set up, I just start to write and then the storxy unfolds itself in front of me…

    Oh and I also hate unanswered questions!!!



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