One of the most common struggles for writers, myself included, is creating an ending that delivers a WOW factor. A good ending leaves a feeling of resolve.
But delivering a wow ending . . . what’s the secret?
Picture book author Dev Petty said it best when she tweeted this:
(She also says lots of other wise things and gives great writing tips if you follow her on twitter, FYI.)
I couldn’t agree more. The best endings leave me thinking about a book looong after I’ve closed the covers. In a previous post, CRAFTING STAND OUT PICTURE BOOKS: A REVISION CHECKLIST, I challenge picture book creators to ask themselves:
DOES THE STORY FEEL RESOLVED?
-Was it logical but surprising?
-Are we satisfied?
In this blog, I’ll expand on these questions by studying picture books that deliver a W.O.W. ending. I have a method for studying picture books from the lens of a creator, but for this blog, I'm going to zoom in on the endings.
How do they make us wonder?
How do they outdo our expectations?
How do they wrap us in all the feels?
Of course, I'm never one to ruin a good surprise. So I won't actually be sharing the endings. No spoiler alerts here! But I will share a glimpse leading up to the ending and follow up with my reaction as a reader.
How do you end a book by creating a beginning? How can you ingnite, within the reader, a curiosity to explore more? A sense of wonder?
If you haven't experienced BLUE, from Laura Vaccaro Seeger, you need to!
I use the word experience purposefully because this book is a true work of art. As with all her books, the illustrations are stunning. You want to touch each page, each cut out, and you pore over each artistic detail time and time again. I rarely read one of her books with my mouth shut because I am full of wonder the entire time. How did she do this? How will she create a spread as magical as the last one? What will be on the next page? This book is a companion to the award winning GREEN, and it is wonderful!
Especially the ending.
You are invited into this special relationship between a boy and his dog as they grow up together. In the end, your heart will break. But it will also heal. And you are left with an overwhelming feeling of hope. And wonder. What will be his next chapter?
Outdoing Our (the reader's) Expectations:
You've crafted the perfect resolution. It's sweet. It's silly. It's meant to be.
It's . . . totally expected.
How can you surprise the reader? How can you deliver a twist that's logical, yet totally unexpected? How can you outdo yourself?
I previously tweeted this list of picture books that surprised me in the best ways. They made me giggle. Or gasp. Or guffaw!
Another book that outdid my expectations at the end was Dan Santat's AFTER THE FALL. This book tells the story of what happens after Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and how he finds the courage to climb back up again. The story resolves beautifully, and then the very end is so unexpected, yet logical, that it's mind-blowing. Of course this is how it should end! How has no one thought of this before? How can *I* do something like this?!
Wrap Us In All The Feels
It is a very special thing when you connect to a book. When this connection happens, that's what brings me back to a book time and time, again. I've not only read the book, I felt it. I related to the struggle. I cheered for the main character. I was part of the journey. And when that journey comes to a resolution that's heartwarming, deserving, and wraps me in strong feelings---that's a wow ending. When this happens, I literally will hug the book, knowing it's just made it's place onto my bookshelf and into my heart.
This book ends with the happily ever after that, we, as very invested readers, *needed* to happen, but then the very last spread wraps us in a feeling that's warm. And wonderful. And WOW. Smile-lingering, heartwarming, wow.
Now, it's your turn!
Check out the ending of your work in progress. Does it check the list?
Will make us wonder?
Will it outdo our expectations?
Will it wrap us in all the feels?
Your W.O.W. ending is waiting for you, wishing, willing you to write it.
Will you? ✨
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. The book follows an Asian-American boy as he and his family prepare to welcome their immigrant relatives. Her second picture book,GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by the amazing Xindi Yan, is a humorous and heartfelt story featuring a little girl, Daisy, and how she connects with her Chinese grandfather across cultures and generations, forthcoming from Little Bee Books in 2020. When she is not teaching elementary kids or writing, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
Katrina Moore writes in Georgia. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE, GRUMPY NEW YEAR, HOPE IS A HOP, and the forthcoming THE STAR IN YOU. (RBP/Macmillan, 2024), as well as the chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!
Katrina has professionally critiqued over hundreds of picture book manuscripts at writing conferences she has presented at, through her work as a council member, mentor, and presenter for the Rutgers One-on-One-Plus conference, as a Critique Ninja, and through her freelance editing services. Her editorial work and services, attention to detail, and ability to bring manuscripts to the “next level” have been highly praised by editors, agents, published authors, and those receiving critiques. For more details, and to inquire about rates, contact Katrina.