"Keeping the Reader Reading," Part 12.
A story ends when the character has achieved his primary goal, or he achieves some form of closure relating to the goal unachieved. For example, he gets the girl or gets over not getting the girl.
Often, the main character has some realization about "what it's all been about" at the very end. This can be as heavy handed as a stated moral to the story, or a subtle use of imagery that has appeared through the story, or a victory celebration of some sort.
The best "moral to the story" I can think of right now is the end of the film, THE MALTESE FALCON. The hero, played by Humphrey Bogart, has turned in the woman he loves for the murder of his partner. In a voice over, he says he did this because the code he lives by as a private eye is even more important to him than love.
My STAR-CROSSED ends as it begins with the hero talking whimsically about wishing on a star. At the end, his wish has come true in the form of the woman in his arms. I used stars through the novel as images of aspirations and dreams, and even my cover has a man's manacled hand reaching for a star that is out of reach. These images tie the novel together until the images converge at the end with the hero's final words.
The most memorable victory celebration for me is the end of the original STAR WARS where Luke, Han, and Chewie receive medals for destroying the Death Star. Everyone is happy and victory has been achieved.
The final goal being achieved might not be the end of the novel. It may end on a final hook or may be part of the final hook which I’ll discuss next week.