How To Write Better Stories: Endings

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I was pretty sure J. K.  Rowling was over hyped until I read one of her books. Now I’m taking you through examples of her great storytelling methods you can role model in your writing, using Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets as a reference.

Follow along as I tell you what I like in “real time,” show you things you should try to do in your own writing – and identify some stuff you probably shouldn’t do, too.

Endings: when do you end your story?

I saw it in the first book and I’m noticing it here, that the story tends to go on a little bit longer than it needed to. Again, since it’s popular there’s no reason to knock it, but once everything is finished, why not just end the story? I’m not sure we learned much in chapter 18 that we couldn’t have just been told briefly at the end of 17.


You end the story when the good stuff is finished – unless you have loose ends to tie up, or want a little farewell to characters you’ve come to love.

After all, as a writer you spent a lot of time with these people, getting to know and like them. Don’t worry, they’ll still be there every time you open the book. End the story when the good stuff is over.

In Chamber of Secrets, Harry is being threatened with expulsion again. See kids? Don’t go breaking all the dang rules!

This is funny:

“But one of us seems to be keeping a little quiet about his part in this dangerous adventure,” Dumbledore added. “Why so modest, Fauntleroy?”

Harry gave a start. He had completely forgotten about Lockhart.

So did I.

Probably so did Rowling.

Anyway, off to the infirmary with him. Good. Maybe he gets his memory back, maybe not. Don’t really care, and some things are best left to tell “later.” It’s okay to have readers assume stuff that you don’t tell them.

Another loose ends (for me) tied up:

Oh, that’s nice. The hat put Harry in Gryffindor house because he asked not to go in Slitherin. And as Dumbledore explains, that’s what makes them different from Riddle. That’s nice. Stuff like that makes me smile.

And smiling kinda makes me erase that grrr I had going on a moment ago.

I can see Dumbledore enjoying explain this to Harry the way I can see parents enjoying explaining this to their kids as a lesson to take from the book, the same way I can see Rowling explaining it to her readers. The rest of us plain old just get to enjoy it for a nice little way to tie things that that happened a long long time ago.

Ha! The sword is explained.

He pulled it out of a hat – a magic hat.

Okay. All is forgiven.

The rest of the chapter ties up some loose ends that probably didn’t really need to be fully explained, but what the heck. If she hadn’t done it, people would’ve said What about this? What about that?

So to wrap it up and do it in a relatively endearing manner is just fine by me.

That said, there isn’t any big unanswered question remaining except the fact that it appears Voldemort may have escaped again. (For me, if you don’t have a dead body, the bad guy can still come back, some way somehow.)


Is it onward to The Prisoner Of Azkaban?

It is. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna burden you with a bunch of posts about it.


Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

10 thoughts on “How To Write Better Stories: Endings

  1. Burden us with more posts, please! I’m really enjoying this series. You see things in those books that I don’t remember noticing, which is a great teaching tool. (Although in my defense, I wasn’t writing yet when I read the books.)

    1. I had mentioned that to an author friend, and she said the same thing, that these days when you read something you are different because you are a writer. You see different things now. So for Christmas I am supposed to be getting the other books, and I imagine reading them and giving insights as to the storytelling.

      Bottom line, if somebody becomes a billionaire from writing, we have things we can learn from them.

      1. Very good points — about learning from successful writers, and about seeing writing differently now. Although I still find that I get lost in the book and don’t think until later about the writing of it, unless I notice something bad. Which means I notice how to *not* write, but am still not catching all the tricks to why things work — because I’m too busy being swept up in the writing that works!

        1. Make no mistake, if I choose to get lost in the story, holding a paperback in your hand is the way to do it. There’s no grand impetus to inform the author or anybody else about my thoughts on their product.

          However, my approach to these books was different. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I was convinced she was not a great writer, that this was just a fad. I was fully expecting Bad writing.

          Instead, I got great storytelling and I have watched a few interviews with her now. She worked very hard to make those books successful. Why would I not want to point out to my readers what I learn as I learn it? Again, watching my blog stats, I can see most of my readers agree – there’s no big demand to have my insights on these books. But I share what I learn, and I am learning a lot, so I am sharing it. And if that means most people go away for a while, I can live with that. This is not the way things are going to be going forward, it’s just how they are this month and last month while I take this diversion. In January, we may see more of this or we may see something completely different. The blog has definitely served it’s purpose over the last few years and if somebody wants to use the search button to think about to find out about my approach to a particular writing topic, it’s all there. But to keep doing the same thing over and over isn’t necessarily why I started the blog and isn’t how I run it going forward anyway.

          I’m glad you’re enjoying the series, though!

          1. I think it’s a compelling idea, to read a book (or series) specifically to figure out why it worked so well for so many people. You’ve inspired me to try to do that more myself. Of course you don’t want to sideline your whole blog by sticking to one topic, that makes sense, although I’ve been impressed by how you keep bringing in such a range of topics that are worth thinking about, using this book as an example.

            In terms of blog stats, I think everyone’s stats are down in recent weeks. I know that I’ve been writing, posting, reading, and commenting only a small fraction of what I’m normally able to do, given how busy I am with the holidays. But oh, January — I’m sure that the whole world will be achievable come January. 🙂

            1. It’s definitely true about the blog stats, which is why I decided to do this series and post it now. A year ago November I had my highest volume of activity ever. This November it’s one of the lowest, but both Decembers were dead!

              I’m glad I inspired you to do something to improve your game! That’s what it’s all about, right? I learned from you and you learn from me and together we improve our product.

  2. Great post! I, too, have noticed some books tend to slap a final chapter on for no reason other than to just make sure the reader GETS that everything was wrapped up. Yep, we got it!

    1. Yeah, I think lots of times that happens because they didn’t outline. They aren’t sure where to end and they don’t want to say goodbye to the characters AND they don’t know HOW to end a story – as in, end it with a bang or in a memorable or satisfying way.

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