Ending A Short Story With Death: How To Do It Right

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So you’ve decided to end your short story with death. It’s a bold move, but when done right, it can leave a lasting impact on your reader. However, there are certain guidelines to follow in order to make sure this choice doesn’t fall flat.

In this article, we’ll explore how to end a short story with death in a way that’s effective, memorable, and most importantly, done right.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to set the tone from the beginning. If you want your reader to be emotionally invested in the death of your character, you need to establish the right mood. This means choosing the right words, sentence structure, and pacing to create a sense of anticipation and tension.

Additionally, you need to develop your characters in a way that makes their death impactful. By creating well-rounded characters with unique personalities and motivations, you give your reader a reason to care about their fate.

With these elements in place, you can begin to explore the different ways to end your story with death, and how to do it right.

Key Takeaways

  • The type of death for the character should be carefully chosen – sudden or anticipated, and the tone should be consistent with the character’s journey and personality.
  • Symbolic meaning should be used to give closure to the reader, and the ending should be fitting and impactful.
  • Setting the tone from the beginning is important, using language and imagery to create a somber and serious mood.
  • Well-rounded characters with unique personalities and motivations create emotional connections with readers, while balancing tension and pacing for engagement.

Set the Tone from the Beginning

You can’t just jump into a story about death without setting the tone from the beginning. It’s crucial to establish the atmosphere and create the mood that will prepare your readers for the inevitable.

You need to use language and imagery that will evoke the somber and serious mood that death demands. One way to do this is by starting with a description of the setting.

You can use words that create an eerie and ominous atmosphere, such as “dusk,” “shadows,” or “silence.” You can also describe the weather, using phrases like “the sky was overcast,” “the air was heavy and humid,” or “the wind was howling.” These details will help your readers feel the weight of the impending doom and prepare them for the final outcome.

Develop Your Characters

Once your characters are fully developed, they’ll take on a life of their own and guide the story towards its inevitable conclusion. Their backstory and motivations will come into play, driving their dialogue and actions.

It’s important to craft characters that are well-rounded, with flaws and strengths that readers can relate to. By doing so, you create emotional connections that not only engage readers but also make them invested in the outcome of the story.

One of the most crucial elements of character development is creating emotional connections. Readers need to feel invested in the characters and their journey, which requires empathy. By understanding your characters’ motivations and backstory, you can create relatable characters that readers will care about.

This emotional investment will make it more impactful when death occurs in your story’s ending. By taking the time to develop your characters, you can ensure that the ending feels earned and satisfying rather than contrived.

writing unexpected plot for character development
Writing unexpected plot for character development

Consider the Pacing

As the beat of a drum sets the tempo for a dance, pacing sets the rhythm for your story, guiding the audience through the highs and lows of your characters’ journey.

When it comes to ending a short story with death, pacing is especially crucial. Balancing tension is key to keeping your readers engaged until the very end. You want to create suspense and keep your audience guessing while also giving them enough information to understand what’s happening.

One way to achieve this is by gradually slowing down the pacing as you approach the climax. This will create a sense of unease and anticipation, leaving your readers on the edge of their seats.

Then, when the death occurs, you can speed up the pacing to create a sudden and shocking impact. This will leave a lasting impression on your readers and ensure that your story stays with them long after they’ve finished reading.

Remember, pacing is the backbone of your story, and it’s important to get it right if you want to deliver a powerful ending.

Choose the Right Type of Death

Choosing the appropriate type of demise for your character can greatly impact the emotional impact of your narrative.

You have two options: sudden or anticipated death. Sudden death is often dramatic and unexpected, which can add intensity to your story. It can also leave your readers in shock and create an unforgettable ending.

On the other hand, anticipated death can be subtle and emotionally charged. When readers know that a character is going to die, they have time to prepare themselves emotionally and become attached to the character. The death can be more impactful and meaningful if it is expected.

When it comes to the type of death, you have the option of choosing a dramatic or subtle ending. A dramatic death can add depth to your story and leave a lasting impression on your readers. It can be a heroic death, where the character sacrifices themselves for the greater good, or a tragic death, where the character’s flaws lead to their demise.

A subtle death, however, can be just as powerful. It can be a peaceful passing, where the character finds closure and acceptance before they go.

The type of death you choose should depend on the tone and theme of your story. Whatever you decide, make sure it fits with the rest of your narrative and leaves a lasting impact on your readers.

Give Closure to the Reader

You want your readers to feel a sense of satisfaction and emotional closure as they finish your narrative, especially if you choose to end it with death.

One way to achieve this is by giving symbolic meaning to the death of your character. By doing this, you can create a deeper connection between the reader and the story, allowing them to see beyond the surface level of the plot and into the underlying theme.

making death a peaceful and satisfactory ending for the protagonist
Making death a peaceful and satisfactory ending for the protagonist

Another important aspect of ending a short story with death is the emotional impact it has on the reader. You want to ensure that the reader is left feeling emotionally fulfilled, rather than simply shocked or saddened.

One way to achieve this is by giving the character a fitting ending that is consistent with their journey and personality throughout the story. This will help the reader feel a sense of closure and satisfaction, even in the face of death.

Overall, ending a short story with death can be a powerful way to leave a lasting impression on your readers, but it’s important to give it careful consideration to ensure that it’s executed in a way that’s both meaningful and impactful.


As you reach the end of your short story, you may find yourself considering ending it with death. But how do you do it right?

You want your readers to feel invested in your characters, and to care deeply about what happens to them. This makes the impact of their death all the more powerful.

Consider the pacing of your story as well. Death can be a sudden shock or a slow, gradual decline. Choose the type of death that fits your story best.

And finally, give closure to the reader. While the death may be tragic, the story shouldn’t leave the reader feeling empty or unfulfilled.

But perhaps you’re hesitant to end your story with death. After all, it’s not exactly a happy ending. But remember, a good story doesn’t always have to have a happy ending. In fact, sometimes the most memorable stories are the ones that end in tragedy.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.