Wrapping Up Too Tightly

I’ve been tweaking my novel ending (again) and wondering just how much I should wrap up. Should I leave any loose ends? Anything for a reader to ponder about later?

I read a recent post by author Sarah Ockler about novel endings:

“I like happy endings. I like to know that things worked out for my favorite fictional people just as I want things to work out for my favorite real life people.

But real life isn’t like that, is it? We don’t always get to know how things turn out for everyone we’ve ever loved. We don’t always get the final say. We don’t always get any say, because unfortunately, endings are just that — endings. And they’re often abrupt and unpredictable.”

I have two particular characters where at the novel’s end, you know where they’re going but they don’t necessarily have all their “issues” worked out — especially between each other. I’ve been wondering if I should try to solve them all before the end, but now I don’t think it’s necessary. In fact, it may feel too “forced” at the end to have their issues resolved. Wrapped up a little too tight and neat.

But there should also be a balance too. For example, you don’t want your major story question going unanswered or a major plot point never being addressed. It almost like needing to trust your writer’s instinct of how much to leave open and what to close.

As a writer, do you feel that you must resolve EVERYTHING or leave a little open for the reader to come to her own conclusion?

As a reader, what are some that things that really frustrate you about novel endings? For me, it’s cliffhanger endings. Ugh. Ha, ha.

Would love to hear some opinions! :)


  1. says

    Sometimes I’m frustrated when I read a book and find that it ended too soon for me. But most of the time, I understand why the author made that choice. I guess you want your reader to wish the book was longer! You have to find the balance between creating a satisfying ending for the reader, without wrapping it too tight, as you say. I’m sure you’ll find that balance!

  2. says

    I don’t love cliffhanger endings, either. I like a certain amount of wrap-up at the end of a novel. I don’t need every subplot or minor character situation to be resolved, but I’d like to know where the protagonist stands and how the big picture is resolved by the last page. In turn, I write endings in this same style. No cliffhangers–not yet, anyway. : )

    • says

      I agree too. I don’t necessarily need every single detail wrapped up but I do want to feel that main character has come to some type of closure to the story questions presented.

      Ha, who knows maybe we will write a cliff-hanger ending one day and we’ll eat our words!

  3. says

    I try to answer all the major questions – esp. if beta readers point out that I didn’t answer enough. But I don’t mind not knowing everything and sometimes I leave my stories like that too! :)

  4. says

    I agree with Sara Ockler. I want most things to be resolved, and I want to be satisfied, but I don’t expect everything to be perfect at the end, it’s too unrealistic. So I like to have a few open threads at the end of a story to keep chewing. But then, you probably guessed that from my novel-ending blog a few weeks ago!

    • says

      I thought about you because I know that you like to have some things for the reader to ponder your novel endings. I think the key is being “satisfied” as a reader and not frustrated.

  5. says

    As long as you plan on another book then I think it’s good to leave some things unresolved. Like you said, as long as it isn’t the biggest part of the book. It’s good to allow the reader room for their own creative imaginings.

    • says

      I still think about some of my favorite characters and I’m glad that the author left some “breathing room” for me to come up with my own conclusions. :)

  6. says

    I’m a huge Hobbit and LotR fan, but the endings of both bug me. They drag on. and on. I think they should end a half a chapter or more before they do. Even in the LotR movie, I don’t like the ending. I like them to resolve pretty quickly after the climax. I like to see the major plot issues resolved, but not everything has to be wrapped up in a bow. I do like a happy ending though!

    • says

      I can see what you mean about LotR ending. I didn’t mind so much in the movie version though because it just meant more screen time for Orlando Bloom’s Legolas character. Ha.

      I like things to wrap up quickly after the climax. This is what I’m currently working on in my own novel project. I think it needs to end quicker than it does.

  7. says

    Cliff hanger endings drive me nuts, especially if I have to wait another year to find out what happens.

    I need the story arc to end. I don’t mind if there are a few loose ends if there’s going to be a sequel.

    I recently read one YA novel that looked like it was going to have an ending but then didn’t. Okay, it did, but it hinted strongly at a sequel. Only it turned out there was no sequel planned. It was a stand alone book. It was like reading Catching Fire, and then learning Suzanne Collins decided not to write Mockingjay after all. :(

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