Loose Ends and Happily Ever After: 9 Ways to End a Short Story

by Thantry Neha Biju, Cedar Girls' Secondary School

Ending a short story is definitely much more difficult than ending a novel, according to Marla Miniano. You have to make an impact within such a small word count. This is why endings are important, and Marla shared nine ways to end a short story with the participants of the Young Writers’ Festival on 11 March 2017.

The first way to end a story is Metanoia - a change of heart. This kind of ending requires writers to understand their characters’ motivations well, and Marla mentioned that through this kind of character development, apart from learning more about their characters, a writer also grows as a person when they understand themselves better. You can also end a story by playing with time. Fast forward to the future, or return to the past, and this shows a bigger landscape of what your story is about. You could also end off by introducing a new and unexpected character. This abrupt end to your story leaves your reader full of suspense as to what happens next.

You could even make use of silence - allow it to take over and make sense of things. Marla encouraged aspiring young writers not to be afraid of ending with someone looking out the window, as long as there is meaning and purpose behind it. And of course, there is always the possibility of happy endings. End conflicts, and make way for forgiveness and acceptance… or don’t! Be unafraid to have a disturbing ending, as long as you feel that you and your readers are ready for it. Disrupt the peace, and shake things up a bit.

Another of ending a short story is going back full circle, but Marla offered a word of caution that this ending needs more experience. This ending brings readers back to the start of the story to make sense of the story from the start. Young writers could also “zoom out, then zoom back in” to end their stories - this shows the bigger picture, but then brings readers back to right now.

The ninth, and one of the most powerful ways to end your story is to leave loose ends untied. Marla explained that there was a reason behind this being her ninth and final reason - it leaves you wanting more! The number ten would offer much more closure than the number nine, but according to Marla, closure is a luxury.  This ending, contrary to popular belief, does not make your work less experienced - it just shows that you have to end here, and it is time to move on and start something new. It leaves readers thinking, “yes, that was so good!”

Marla ended off her speech by encouraging young writers to end their story in such a way that inspires them to start something new - because the key to becoming a successful writer is to just keep writing.