How to End a Story…

How to End a Story, an essay by Nick Mamatas

originally posted on 6/20/08

WARNING: Eddie Campbell in How To Be An Artist, his wonderful autobiographical comic, explains that the advice within should be taken as how to be an artist successfully, not how to be a successful artist. All advice here is the same. This is how to write a good ending, not how to write an ending that will make the story saleable. There actually is a difference, which I will discuss at the end of this.

And now, another anecdote — this past weekend I was at Mo*Con, and at Mo*Con was a Celtic rock band called Mother Grove who played an extended set. I’m not much for diddly-diddly music, but it was good and fun and their fiddler player was cute so I stuck around. For most of it. Mother Grove, like many artists who are given free rein, ruined themselves by playing too long. I went to bed before they covered Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe The Hype”, which should have been how they ended the set an hour before. Then the experience would have been much better, though shorter. Actually, though is the wrong word — because it would have been shorter.

That’s how you end a story: with a) a bang and b) leaving the reader hungry for more. The bang is easy enough, but what about hunger?

Too many stories make one of two errors — they cop-out on the implications of the story or exhaust the reader. Both serve to stop the story rather than end it, both fail to leave the reader hungry for more.


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