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Ask an Editor: What Makes a Good Ending?

Tendayi Chirawu asked:

I just read through your FAQs and am curious to know what exactly qualifies as an emotionally satisfying ending (listed under what you are looking for)?


This is a hard question because it’s so specific to every book and to every reader, really. Endings are controversial. For example, some people love the ending of the Hunger Games series and some people hate it with a burning passion. However, without talking about specifics, there are a few questions you can ask when trying to evaluate whether an ending is emotionally satisfying.

Have you answered the questions that you’ve raised in the book? Not that you have to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and tie everything up with neat little bows, but the big questions, the ones that really, really matter, have you answered them?

Look at your characters. Are they in a different place emotionally from where they started? Have they grown and changed in a way that’s believable? And is there hope for them in the future? This is very, very important to romance readers and to YA readers especially. There must be a sense of hope. No matter how dark or terrible the things that your characters face are, in the end, your reader should be left with a sense of hope.

And, since we’re talking Swoon Reads and romance, have the characters grown together? Is the relationship believable and are they in a good place in the end? Do we feel that the characters are better off now than they were in the beginning of the book? Was their journey worth it? Since I personally hate to cry, I want to add: Does it end in happily ever after, or at least happily for now? But that’s a personal preference and not absolutely necessary for something to be emotionally satisfying.

However, if you are going to end in tragedy, I better have been able to see it coming. Don’t blindside your readers. Every ending, whether happy or sad (and I vote for happy!), has to be earned. That more than anything is what makes the ending emotionally satisfying.

Author spotlight

Holly West

Senior Editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. Giant geek. Dedicated fangirl. Half-Elven Rogue Cleric. Also answers to That-Girl-Who-Reads-A-Lot.

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