How do you write an ending to a final chapter, and be happy with it?

DAgent

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I'm at that stage where I've just about got the first draft done and I'm working on the last chapter, and while there is no more story to tell after that point, I'm just not happy with the last chapter. Obviously it needs work as it's not had the same time and attention other chapters have had, but even after letting it have a rest of about a week and looking over it with fresh eyes, I'm just not happy with it, and while it does end things and show the aftermath and people returning to their lives, it somehow seems to lack something I just can't put my finger on.

I'm just wondering what people have had to do with their own final chapter to know it's a good ending and be happy that that is indeed good.

On a slightly different but related note, if you were writing a book that is part of a trilogy and this is not the full proper ending, has anyone had problems finding what the end to the first and second books should be?
 

Astro Pen

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For Trilogy vols. 1 and 2
Easier because you leave an opening. Whether the protag knows about it depends on many factors, mainly how you visualise starting the next volume.

Single Volume (or volume 3)
Paradoxically endings that are too neat and wrap everything up can feel awkward and unconvincing because life ain't like that.
Is there any kind of "I never did find out what was in that message from Miriam .... "? to add a little incompletion. Just an uptick to keep the reader thinking rather than shutting the book with a bang, oh well, done and dusted.
 

sknox

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For me to be happy with the novel, I need two chapters, not one. The penultimate chapter is the climax. That one has to involve high emotion and I have to feel that, in two ways. First, what happens there is what had to happen. For good or ill, sometimes both, the action of the penultimate chapter cant' be contrived. Everything in the novel led to this point, and this point justifies and lends meaning to everything prior. I can fairly reliably identify those elements objectively, but I also have to *feel* the moment.

The final chapter is the denouement. It releases tension, ties up trailing ends, and may or may not point forward for the characters. The final chapter for me often has an element of melancholy to it, perhaps mixed with some muted humor or even joy (also muted). The way forward has to be consistent with the characters, the tying up of ends should fall somewhere around "yeah, sure, that." The emotions need to be stepped down from the climax. Here again, I'm Reader Zero, so if I'm not feeling it, I have to ask myself some hard questions. It usually involves my not having developed characters sufficiently, being guilty of moving them about the stage like scenery. If I'm not feeling them at the end of the book, I either never had them, or lost them somewhere along the way.

All this is terribly subjective, I know. I offer it as one way to start breaking down the larger "I'm not happy with the ending" into chunks that the author can actually address.
 

DLCroix

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Perhaps it is the absence of plot or scheme.
Every time you finish a novel you also reach the end of a process, it is impossible not to feel emotionally sensitive or delicate, you feel a kind of relief and a satisfaction that is only slight, in reality it is closer to a depression or so at least I happens to me. Specifically, the first and third novels of the trilogy (in theory because later there was a fourth part and lately I am working on a series of prequels) have an epilogue. The second does not have it because, despite the fact that they are all self-concluding stories, it is where it is most noticeable that the villains reach a terrible revelation, where they must do justice, in fact the second book is more urban and obviously police in tone, the most unlikely and least qualified Praetorian suddenly sees that a large part of her squad was exterminated and must continue alone, she is the only officer left in command and resigning is not an option.
You see, when there is a kind of plot or scheme somehow you have the sensation of announced tragedy, you know that conflicts will have a solution even though it will make the actresses in your cast have a tantrum and demand an increase in salary, hey, boss, this time you went out the line, etc. It is clear that in the epilogue you no longer have any tissue (and probably the reader either). But the objective of having a plot, at least as I see it, is not that it gives you a guideline of the events that you must narrate, but that it is the rabbit in the hat in terms of the effect with which you want to end the story. It is likely that your story was made without a plot, so I think you should examine the story until you find what you don't like and change it. In stories, the normal thing is that the characters get angry with the writer, not the other way around, because the characters, despite the fact that I speak of them as actors, are only words. You are the magician.
 

Flaviosky

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The final chapter is the denouement. It releases tension
Yeah, sort of a cooldown. I remember lots of movies from the 90's to end just after the climax ends (for example, in the first Rocky movies, the film ends literally some minutes after Rocky wins the fight), and I find that quite frustrating because there are subplots that just don't resolve with the fight itself.

There are things to digest, trailing conflicts to wrap and attend. The final chapter o the series is kind of the moment when the MC looks back and acknowledges the path he/she has travelled.
 

Wayne Mack

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Try rereading the first chapter and then skip directly to the final chapter. Do they feel like proper bookends? Are the points raised in the first chapter all addressed in the final chapter? Are there resolutions in the final chapter that are not foreshadowed in the first? Looking at the story in this way might help you pinpoint what you feel is not working.
 

AnyaKimlin

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What happens if you delete the chapter you're trying to write?

I generally find if I am struggling writing the final chapter that I've already finished the stories.
 

paranoid marvin

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Why not try writing an alternative ending to your story? Perhaps subconsciously you think the story should end differently to the one you intended?
 

tinkerdan

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Preferably the ending leaves the reader with enough closure to feel it is satisfying--whether it is happy or sad doesn't matter as long as it makes sense to the story. It can even be a twist like a twilight zone episode and the protagonist is allowed to die as long as it fits the story and most readers will be happy with it, if the journey to get there is entertaining enough(insert: well written).

I would caution to be careful about overthinking things or thinking that you need to explain some extra points to the reader.
I recently read a novel that was quite well done and even though a major character was killed at the end--it made sense and it worked to preserve the protagonist of the story. However the author must not have been happy with it and wrote more and reversed the death which for me minimized the effect of the real ending. They had a second book in mind and they could have undone the death somewhere in the second novel--leaving the original work intact with a somewhat tragic end.
 

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