How To Write An Ending That Serves Your Story & Satisfies Audiences

Monday 17 June 2019

After seeing the division between fans regarding the ending of the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, I wondered what makes a good ending? Is there ever a good place to stop a story and if there is, where is the best place to end and are there any patterns as to why people love or loathe an ending  

This should go without saying but just in case ***spoilers*** 

I asked fans of LOSTThe Sopranos and Game of Thrones to share their thoughts on the endings of these three epic shows.  


I was hoping for an ending more centred around the meaning of life but honestly, I was happy that it didn’t end up being all a dream. 

I felt like the writers had mapped out a scenario for the first two seasons but hadn’t counted on the show’s popularity, so were scrambling for storylines to keep it going. The conclusion was disappointing.  

Lost really tied itself up in knots and copped out! I do think the last series worked quite well as an extended fever dream of dying.  

I think that the 2007/2008 Writers strike was partly responsible for the shift in storylines and it didn't quite get back to 'abnormal' after that. All in all, I think it played far too heavily on the theme of 'religious redemption' but was an intriguing and entertaining series. 

The whole series was never about being dead and/or purgatory and they could have dealt with it differently like someone revealing it was all part of an experiment or of alien lifeforms or whatever but not the solution they chose. 

This show is the poster child for asking questions they never intended to answer: Polar bear? Why is Walt special? What did Hurley's numbers really mean? 

Just a waste of viewing time for those issues. However, the finale will always have a place in my heart for those bookend shots of Jack laying on the ground, opening his eyes (the pilot) and then closing them (the finale). 
  • More time needed to come to a well-rounded conclusion  
  • Sub-plots that go nowhere are frustrating 
  • Disappointing conclusion for some, satisfactory for others 


The characters stayed true to who they were, and even though that end was one big unanswered question (he totally gets killed, no doubt in my mind), they did a good job of cleaning house.  The final was left too open to interpretation. 

Did Ring get killed? Did his whole family get gunned down whilst eating onion rings? Was Tony depressed or was he a sociopath confiding in a doctor to relieve his conscience? 

I guess David Chase wanted to end it with a ‘what if’ scenario but for me, I needed more closure.  
  • Open endings can work as long as there is consistency in the lead up 
  • Tying up MOST of the loose ends is important  


They shouldn't have tried to end it so decisively. 

They should have arrived at a point and stopped telling the story... Leave it to the audience to then imagine where things went. 

It felt more like an epilogue than an ending. It got to a reasonable end point but I was left craving the glimmer of hope that Dany would be reborn out of the dragon’s last flames - to try again in the future. 

I liked the ending of GoT - Jon Snow was back where his heart belongs, Arya embarks on new adventures, Sansa is fucking Queen in the North, even Daenerys’ tragic end was fitting and long time coming, oh, and Bron is master of coin - genius move! Bran will be the wisest King and let’s face it - Tyrion is the best hand ever (and he also would have been a good king). 

They left some subplots hanging, or just flat-out ignored them. Arya can change faces but she only used them on the Freys (and she never did kill someone with green eyes)? Who is the Lord of Light and has he met the Many-Faced God? The ending was okay. 

Yes, there are lots of questions unanswered but, for me, that meant lots of fun and interesting discussions about what it all could have meant. Not having things handed to you on a plate can be fun and increase your enjoyment. 

You don't set stuff up to ignore it - Jon Snow being the rightful king, even if he doesn't become king, needs a payoff - especially as its such a major plot point and a well-known trope in fantasy. Possibly only having six instead of ten eps for the last season didnt help.  
  • Too many subplots going nowhere 
  • Unused plot devices and characters not utilised  
  • End result is not the big issue, how it was delivered felt unsatisfactory 
Can an Ending Ever Satisfy Everyone?  
Answer: No. 
People agree that unanswered questions are perfectly fine as long as there is consistency and there aren’t too many loose ends

They also realise that there are some things writers can’t control and it can impact their work, e.g. strikes and pressure to finish a series.  
Endings do not have to be tied up in a neat bow BUT the story does have to end and more often than not writers are able to bring the tale to an acceptable conclusion. 

Being satisfied with an ending even though you don’t like it, is one thing, not liking an ending because it’s in some way unsatisfactory, is another.     

Emma Pullar is a bestselling and award-winning writer of dark fiction and children’s books. She also dabbles in screenwriting.

You can find Emma on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or lurking in the shadows, spying on people in the name of inspiration and creativity.

*NOTE*: Thank you to the following people for their contributions to this conversation on endings: Cera Rose PickeringKerri BeevisMike GibasJoe X YoungJane BadrockNic ParkerDavid YoungMark WalkerPhilip Webb and Chris Pullar. 

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