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The Mechanics of Short Story Writing (The Ending)
Writing a short story is not nearly as easy as one would assume, its composition differs massively from a traditional novel. Editors will often look at the ending of the story and conclude whether it is satisfactory or not based on that. This is because any writer can churn out a piece of text that goes in a rough direction, appears to have a beginning, middle and end, and yet the same piece in the eyes of the editor is strangely lacking. Whilst writers may argue that not every story needs to end well, editors will always argue that whilst some don't, they are the same short stories that audiences are not that interested in. Short stories in their truest form must always be neatly packaged. This doesn't mean the ending must always be happy, but there must be a clear ending and a clear point; otherwise the reader will get to the end with a strange feeling of emptiness. That feeling of emptiness is because the story wasn't written properly in the first place. So let's say I am writing a short story about a character, who is actually no longer living, they are a ghost, and thus the goal of the story is to get the character, and the audience to realise that they are in fact no longer living. It will come as a surprise to the reader too who will naturally assume the character is alive, therefore I must then write with that goal in mind all the way through.
Just before the end of the story is when you twist it, there should always be a red herring, something to put focus on that topic, that teases at a different ending. It's like Scooby Do, there is always someone who you think, it's that guy, but it never is that person. Leaving you surprised and provided an explanation is given by 'Scooby and the Gang' you are unlikely to be disappointed because there is a pay off; that was the reason you were watching the episode, if you knew who the guy dressing up as a ghost was at the beginning, why would you be watching it? So surprise endings are always the best way to end short stories. To make this work there must be two points in opposition to each other, you think one is happening, but actually something completely different is happening.
A man thinks he has been rescued by a cute girl down an alley from muggers, only to realise she nicked his wallet. As a reader, you might find that quite comical and so it gives you a reason to read. That's how to end well when writing a short story.
Other examples are:
The person you perceive to be an enemy is actually a friend.
The person is a ghost but doesn't realise it. (The Others, Six Sense)
The person believes they are a super hero, only to find out they have no special powers at all and have been beating people up in their own strength.
It requires more thought, but ultimately your short stories will get a lot stronger if they have an element like this in them. It's about creating an impact on the reader, a memorable ending will leave a mark. So there we go, I've given away the trade secret, somewhere there is a person who is making money from their short stories that is now cursing me.
Why not check out my article on, The top mistakes made submitting short stories to competitions.