So much attention gets paid to crafting the beginning of magazine articles — the leads and nut grafs — that relatively little time is spent working on story endings. This is a shame, because leaving the reader with a strong ending can be the best way to create a lasting impression or spur the reader to take action. The following sections look at a few styles of article endings that typically have powerful resonance.
If your article is about a person or a program, sometimes the best way to end your tale is by looking forward to the future of that person or program. It could be a sentence as simple as, “Where exactly will Donna go from here? Nobody's quite sure, but it will definitely be far.”
The idea is to give the reader the lasting impression that your subject continues to live, or strive, or fester out there in the real world, that you may write about it again, and that the reader should care about what happens in the future.
If there's information that may spur readers to action with your story's ending, you should include it. There's no better place than the end of a magazine article to ask a reader: “Can this dreaded disease be stopped? Doctors hope so, and they're relying on your blood donations to help them make a difference. Call now, 1-800-555 …”
Another classic way to connect with readers at the end of a magazine article is by harkening back to your story's lead. This technique brings a sense of closure to many magazine stories, a feeling of having come full circle on a topic.
A good example might be an article about a person fighting to change a government agency's way of doing things. Perhaps your story's lead is about the person stepping up to a microphone to discuss the problem at a town meeting, only to be dismissed by the town board members. Then, the body of your story could be about this same person's continuing struggle toward change. At the end of your story — whether the person succeeds or fails — you could go back to the town board meeting room, only end with yet another meeting where the person's voice is heard.
By using the “looking back to your lead” technique, you will make a connection with the reader, whether this story's subject succeeds or fails in the quest for change. That's the beauty of being a writer. Stories don't have to have happy endings in order to have interesting endings.
Perhaps the most commonly used technique for crafting powerful story endings is the summary quotation. This is that gem of a quote that you have in your notebook summing up all of a source's thoughts and feelings and actions on a subject, the quote that highlights everything you want the reader to remember long after he puts down his magazine. The trick to using the summary quote ending is making sure you have a great quote. All too often, writers will end their articles with just any old quote, perhaps the last one they come across in their notebooks. This is a lame and lazy approach to writing that you should not follow.
Instead, when you're searching through your notes for great quotes to use as breadcrumbs, put a star next to the one or two quotes that you think might be the best. Save them for the end, like a favorite dessert. Your readers, and your editors, will thank you.