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Story Endings

A logical, satisfying ending is always required in a short story, but how do you ensure that yours is fresh and new? One of the ways is to avoid the obvious. Here are some common endings seen by editors:

use them at your peril.

And then I woke up.

The ‘Dallas’ gambit. This approach is nothing more than a cop-out for people with no imagination. Stories should reach a logical conclusion that satisfies the reader and resolves any conflicts. This method does neither.

And then I died.

The ‘Weird Tales’ gambit. This one turned up regularly in horror tales during the early part of last century, until it was overplayed by HP Lovecraft, among others. A diary which ends in a string of nonsense words as a crawling terror from beyond comes for the author was fine the first time out, but most editors have seen it too many times.

And I found out I’d been dead all along.

The ‘Sixth Sense’ gambit. This is an old one, which is why people who were well read in the genre spotted the twist very early in M Night Shyamalan’s film. An overused variation is to have someone breaking out of a coffin after a supposedly premature burial. Don’t do it; the editor will see it coming from a mile away.

And they called them Adam and Eve.

The ‘Bible’ gambit or, as Michael Moorcock puts it, Shaggy God stories. If you start with a nuclear holocaust or human colonists on a new planet, make sure you don’t use this ending or the story will be bounced back to you straight away. The other trap to avoid is having a computer become a god. That avenue was new in the ’40s, but these days an editor will laugh himself out of his chair.

And then I saw the fangs, just before he bit me