Posted by: nancycurteman | July 20, 2012

How to Write Endings for Mystery Novels

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Endings need careful thought and excellent writing. Consider this: The ending is the last impression your reader will have of your novel. Indeed, it may very well determine if a reader is going to pick
up your next novel or not.

There are different endings for different kinds of genres. I will deal with the dénouement, which is the preferred ending for mystery novels although it is also effective for other genres as well.

1. Decide at what point in the story would be the best place for the ending. Be careful not to confuse the climax with the ending. Endings are about a satisfying close to your story. Generally the end will be right after the final climax.

2. A good ending should be proportional to the length of the story. The ending of a short novella may be less than half a page. The ending of a 900-page saga may extend through more than one scene and several pages. Nevertheless, make the ending concise, no long drawn-out tangents.

3. A mystery will usually end with a twist or surprise. However, it must be plausible. Be sure you’ve scattered clues throughout the story that lead to the ending. You want your reader to think, “Of course. Now I remember what led to this ending.”

4. The ending should explain what finally happened to the characters after the climax. It should wrap up any loose strings you scattered throughout the story including unexplained “red herrings.” Your reader should not have to ask, “But what happened to…?” Or “How did he manage to get…?”

5. Connect your ending with your beginning. Address final outcomes of the goals, motivation, needs and character changes that you touched on early in the novel.

Authors are assiduous about writing opening pages and climaxes. It’s important to be just as diligent about writing endings.

More Writing Tips:

7 Story Structure Weaknesses That Collapse Your Mystery Novel

How to End a Mystery Novel



  1. […] Curteman makes the crucial point that the ending of a mystery novel should come with an ‘a-ha!’ moment. The reader should be able to go back and say ‘I saw this […]


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