I don’t see novels ending with any real sense of closure. -Michael Ondaatje

Being a fan of romance novels has afforded me a certain luxury. And that is, getting closure. I’m not sure if I’ve read a book appropriately classified as romance, and the book didn’t leave me with the feeling that all was complete. At least complete with the main characters’ story. In other genres however, you may be left with a feeling that all hasn’t been resolved.

Of course I have stories that float about in my head that have no end in sight and if I were to write them and share them, I’m sure most of you would say huh? What happened to those people or what ever happened to the town where all of the night creatures descended upon it. I can’t just leave you with my running thoughts. I need to give you, my reader, closure. Or as close to a feeling of closure as I can get to.

As a writer, I do have a personal goal and that is to tell my story. My broader goal would be to tell a story that others would love to read. So that yes, they spend money buying my work but mostly, so that my writing is not in vain. And sometimes when readers feel like they didn’t get an ending that was satisfying, they will stop reading your work. It’s too disappointing for them.

Without closure, you will always wonder about those people or that town. You won’t move on. And some authors can’t figure out why their readers won’t let go of some of their stories or more specifically, their characters. They can’t let go. Wait, I should include myself here because I can’t let go either. Anyway, we can’t let go because you didn’t give us closure. I still wonder about some things. In your attempt to avoid the neat ending, I was left bereft. I am now yearning to understand how these people that I spent 6 reading hours getting to know, are handling their lives. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. And wait, let me say, you did a great job writing a story that made me love these people enough to still wonder about them but, I’ve got to move on. Help me.

In relationships, when you’ve reached the end, closure is usually necessary for both parties to move on completely. And I’m not saying that there will never be the lingering what ifs because not all is tidy. I’m not even saying there is no pain, there will probably be plenty of that especially if one person is clueless to the turn of events. But my point is, with closure, usually in the form of a conversation going over all the offenses and realizations, you can part. You don’t have too many what ifs, and you are not trying to figure out how you got to that point. Nope, you pretty much know it’s done no matter what you want or how much you love each other.

Same goes for the stories we read. We need to know it’s done. And yes, these people still live and they still have issues but the story itself is resolved.

I went through all of that to say. I have to figure that out for my own story. How do I end with a feeling of closure? I say “feeling of closure” because it is not really closed. These people still live on but you don’t need to worry about them so much. They are alright. I have some new people I want you to meet.

Tell me, how do you bring the feeling of closure to your character’s stories?



12 thoughts on “Closure

  1. Here’s my two cents: I understand this because personally, I get a lot of messages seeking an “end” to my characters’ stories. But my approach (and my challenge) is to write stories where the reader feels as though they’re dropping in on my characters’ lives, not getting the entire picture of their lives. Still I understand the need for closure, I’m just not sure I can provide it and be true to my voice. Some problems never get resolved, some relationship issues flare up and die down in cycles throughout the length of people’s lives. I think that’s the point of a lot of what I write — to show that life is mostly journey and rarely destination. But having said that, I do LOVE to read a good, conclusive love story every once in awhile. Delaney Diamond is masterful at that, and a favorite of mine for giving both journey and happy destination.

    • Hey Nia! There’s nothing wrong with writing the story that speaks to you. It’s your story, tell it. And readers love your books and characters. I believe that may be why they hang on so much not because they aren’t left with a feeling of closure. But that’s my opinion. Either way, keep doing what you do and thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great post! Unfortunately, beginnings (story open) and endings are extremely difficult for me to accomplish with ease…and I don’t have a clue as to why. I struggle with both to the point of setting some stories aside (indefinitely). I can have all the scenes laid out, but the beginning and the ending can change ten times (and I’m not exaggerating – just ask my critique partners). After reading your post, Aja, I’m thinking my problem (or at least one of my problems – smile) is that I know how important the beginning (opening) and the ending is to a reader and get anxious for fear of not getting either just right. I’m sure this is something I’ll be working on (trying to get right) until I give up my pen and paper. At any rate, thanks for sharing! I love your thought provoking posts.

    • Thanks Sharon! I appreciate your feedback. I try to make you all think while I’m thinking 🙂 The fact that you care about the beginning and end speaks a lot to the type of experience you want for your reader. Some writers only care about the story. I keep going back to the analogy of relationships, but reading a book is like a love affair, the way it begins keeps people in it and the ending is what lingers long after it’s done. People seldom spend their days lamenting over the middle parts.

  3. Interesting post Aja. I don’t have an answer for your question because sadly I only really started writing creatively this year and haven’t completed anything yet. Curiously I did recently write just an extensive beginning and ending to one piece, because often it’s those sections of the story that come at me the most vividly. For me impactful beginnings and strong endings that actually end the story, hopefully in intriguing ways, have always held the greatest appeal. Inertia and limbo tend to be my turn offs. Your post reminded me of an article I read in the NYer yesterday about why Breaking Bad was the best show on TV. One of the reasons it suggested was that the creator Vince Gilligan told the story from the beginning with “the protagonist in motion,” but while the story continually engaged us it was not only moving to an actual ending, which was critically important and not often done, but he was also “sticking the landing.”

    • I have not watched that show, Lily, but it sounds like something I can get with. I really do appreciate a great, powerful ending. I look forward to reading whatever you publish. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  4. For me, recognizing that unless all my characters die in the last chapter, the closure for that book or story occurs when that particular situation in their lives is resolved. My characters live with me, and when they have more to tell me I’ll be ready to try to write it down.

    I think about one of the most famous novels in American literature, and how at the end the male protagonist, after yearning for the love of the female protagonist for year and most of the book finally can have her, but at that point he’s too through. He says, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” And the book concludes with her saying that “Tomorrow is another day.” No life closure, but the story is closed.

    • Ending the story is paramount and even if I wonder about the characters, I don’t want to wonder about the story. Thanks for stopping by, The Black and sharing your thoughts.

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