* Stories must not fall apart at the end; an author should direct the reader’s feelings.  Readers should discover something new and unique to them.  Therefore, for maximum impact, endings should show emotional and intellectual awakenings and reversals, not tell them.

* Resolutions must be clear in order to satisfy the reader, and they must be directly tied to the conflict and be a result of the action.

* Avoid trying to evoke emotion in a reader by telling a character’s state of mind through clichés and sentimental images; the drama and action of the story should be used to provide the reader with a meaningful emotional response (see Example 2).

Example 2. Ineffective ending (with clichés and sentimentality).

With a heavy heart, he sat on the carcass of his dead horse, the weight of the world light compared to his grief, a grief that would only grow with time.  True friendships can never be replaced.

2) Transitions

The art of transition is essential to good storytelling.  In film, the story goes from scene to scene and the visual orientation to time of day and place is immediate.  In literary fiction, however, the reader must be oriented to each scene—who, what, when, where—by transitions.  Transitions must tell the reader how much story time has transpired, and transitions must be logical, accurate and factual.

Transitions lead the reader from one time to another, from place to place, and from emotion to emotion.  Line spaces in formatting (and with markings for section or chapter breaks) are also used for transition, but these breaks should be carefully chosen and not replace the well-written transition that is needed to enhance the story and the reader’s understanding.


1) Tell the reader who or what is in the transition, when it occurs, and/or where it happens.

2) Do not try to create suspense by using personal pronouns—he, she, or they—without a clear and juxtaposed antecedent.  Use “John drove .  .  .” rather than “He drove .  .  .” whenever it is appropriate.

3) Transitions usually condense action or description; be careful to include only the most important information in the transition.  Transitions, by design, must be succinct.

3) Drama

Drama is conflict with a resultant reaction and an eventual resolution.  Drama is the essence of a good story.  Yet drama is more difficult for a writer of prose than for a dramatist or screenwriter, because the writer is restricted to the written word and cannot rely on visual and auditory stimuli.  But overcoming the difficulties is rewarding for the writer, because the intensity of the written word between author and reader can uniquely give powerful and memorable stories rarely achievable in film or stage drama.