All’s Well that Ends Well – Ask Alice Saturday

Question: How do I make my story ending sell my book?

Casablance ending Answer: The ending of your story doesn’t sell this story as much as it sells your next story. Have you ever finished a book and wanted to throw it across the room? Or maybe actually did throw it across the room? Very often the book’s ending made you do that. And also made certain you wouldn’t buy that author’s next book. Avoid being thrown across the room. Avoid losing a reader for your next book and the ones after it. Create a story ending that doesn’t frustrate. Create an ending that satisfies.

The end game of your story is a danger zone. Partly because you’re most likely tired of these people and their situation by now. In fact your head and heart are already deep in your next story. So you must be careful not to write the end in this rhythm. Gallop – Gallop – Gallop – The End. That ending does not satisfy. That ending lacks the essential Big Bang.

I’ve used the film classic Casablanca in earlier posts to illustrate the Dramatic Opening and the Middle That Moves. Casablanca is also a great example of the Ending That Satisfies. The story has two threads – an action suspense thread and an emotional suspense thread. Both are tied up with a bang at the ending.

The action climax is an actually audible bang when arch villain German Major Strasser is shot dead. The emotional climax is more drawn out and that slightly slowed down pace is part of what gives it impact. Rick – played by Humphrey Bogart – tells Ilsa – played by Ingrid Bergman – why she must take the plane to Lisbon and safety not with him but with her husband Nazi hunter Victor Laszlo.

The plane engine rumbles to life in the background. A single tear trembles on Ilsa’s perfect cheek. And Bogie says some of the most memorable lines of his career. Later on he’ll walk off with Vichy Captain Louis Renault who has suddenly discovered his inner good guy. But the Big Bang really happens when brooding cynic Rick finds his own true heroic nature and sacrifices his heart for the good of the world and his soul.

We could hardly be more satisfied and it all looks smooth and easy but don’t be fooled. To carry off an ending that works like this well there has to be a plan. To create a Big Bang ending for your story you must plan the climactic scene in detail. Don’t write a word till that plan is perfect. Plan mostly action and dialogue and keep all of this action on stage in the immediate present. There are more steps as well.

How to Plan Your Big Bang Ending

  •  Plan mostly action and dialogue, very little narrative.Plan to keep all of this action on stage, in the immediate present.
  • Plan dialogue that is spare, to the point and memorable.
  • Plan on intensifying the pace, faster than what has gone before.
  • Plan lots of physical movement in the scene.
  • Plan lots of intense sensations – sight, sound, smell, texture and more.
  • Plan to plunge your protagonist into peril.
  • Plan one more obstacle to arise for your protagonist.  Make it formidable.
  • Plan a confrontation between your protagonist and antagonist.
  • Plan on milking that confrontation, while keeping up the intense pace.
  • Plan for your protagonist to cause action, not merely be overtaken by it.
  • Plan to communicate your protagonist’s feelings, with impact, to the reader.
  • Plan on incorporating fear, even terror, among those emotions.
  • Plan the presence of real danger to your protagonist in this scene.
  • Plan an outcome in the balance.
  • Plan that outcome as crucial to your protagonist.
  • Plan for your protagonist to be nearly vanquished in this scene.
  • Plan for your protagonist to be racing against time.
  • Plan for your protagonist to triumph in the last possible moment.
  • Plan for your protagonist to triumph by the narrowest of margins.
  • Plan for this triumph to be uplifting and inspiring.

The purpose of a Big Bang ending is to reverberate after the last page is turned. To lodge in the psyche of the reader and be remembered. All the way to the bookstore or the Buy Now button and the purchase of your next title.

You must stage your final scene the way a choreographer stages a dance. The result will be a powerful Dramatic Ending at full circle from what will have to have been your Dramatic Opening. And equally or even more thrilling. Find out how to write that Dramatic Opening in my previous post “Well Begun is Well Done”.

Now you must recognize that your story is over. You and your protagonist have exploded out of the explosive situation you exploded into on page one. You must resist the temptation to hang around a while longer. You’ve taken your reader on an unforgettable ride. Leave before she has a chance to catch her breath. Leave before he’s had enough. Leave them wanting more.  No Epilogues Please.

When you’ve accomplished all of that – Here’s looking at you kid.


 My latest story is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – Matt & Kara’s Story. Available at This is my 12th novel and it does have a dramatic ending.

Alice Orr –


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