Downer Ending

I’ve reached the end of the second part of my planned trilogy, and holy cats, it’s kind of a bummer. The good guys made it out, but my MC was definitely put through the wringer. A whole theme of this story for me is that trauma doesn’t magically vanish so part three will be very much about healing.

In the meantime, I’m trying to find a way to make the ending more optimistic. Anyone else have experience with bummer endings? Advice on ways to make a rough time feel less agonizing without undercutting the seriousness?

1 Like

Haven’t done it as a writer yet, but have been reading for years. So take this with a very large grain of salt. Smile.

I think the answer is hope. Don’t reduce or minimize all the bad stuff that is has happened. Having a really really REALLY low point for your MC is part of the gig. But a sentence here and there that gives the character, or maybe only the reader, hope for the healing you mention may be all that is needed. It doesn’t need to be much. Perhaps it can double as a teaser for your third part.

Is it the MC’s never give up attitude? Is it a memory of someone that drives the MC forward with determination? Is it something outside of the MC’s awareness that gives the reader hope that things will turn out?

No idea if this is what your story needs. It is more of what I want to see as a reader. When it all seems hopeless, there needs to be something that gives me hope. Even if it is only a sentence or two.

Good Luck!


I think you nailed it. The 2nd book is the place to do this. A lot of stories end with grief in the second (or second to last) book. It is the night before the dawn. The dark night of the soul. Harry Potter’s 6th book ended on a huge downer. Some great movie series do this too. Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back and Avengers Infinity War have great downers before the finale. But foreshadow things turning around. It’s one of my favorite mechanics of a series.