Writing a Killer Ending

Blog 70 ImageI’ve been posting for a while that I’m working hard on my third book. I’m down to editing the last chapters before sending out the manuscript for the first round of developmental comments. And that has me asking: in the thriller genre, what makes for a killer ending?

A book’s opening is the chance to grab readers for the next 400 pages. The ending is an even bigger opportunity. Done well, it can grab readers for the next several books.

So, with the help of blogs by Joanna Penn, C. Patrick Schulze and James V. Smith Jr., here’s what I think endings of thrillers should offer.

A Climactic Incident and Resolution: A thriller should build to a final struggle with the book’s most compelling action, conflict, imagery and dialogue. And the storylines must resolve in a manner that respects the plot’s flow.

Good Meeting Bad: One way or another, in the ending, the good guy and bad guy must face off. Usually the good guy wins.

Surprise: In a thriller, everyone may anticipate that the good guy wins, but an ending needs surprise to stay gripping. There are lots of ways to create this. For example, it can be in how the good guys win, how sub-plots are resolved or, more daringly, by blurring the line between good and bad.

A Sense of Satisfaction: Readers want to feel satisfied at the end of a book. They’re more likely to feel that about a thriller if:

  • The good guy wins, either because he’s smarter or because he’s physically or morally stronger.
  • As part of winning, the good guy learns something important.
  • The readers understand and feel the good guy’s emotions.
  • The ending is not only surprising but also logical and foreshadowed.
  • The loose ends are nicely tied up and it’s clear that the story is over.
  • There’s a strong finishing sentence.

If a thriller’s ending offers all that, readers will want more!

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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Buy The Case for Killing.

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