1. Happily Ever After – I am fond of the happy ending. The best way to give a reader this is by showing a new beginning. Romance novelists usually do this with a wedding or the arrival of the couple’s first baby. The key is the new relationship. The formation of a new friendship or alliance is another way to provide this end. One of my personal favorites was Humphrey Bogart in the end of Casablanca… “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
2. Open-Ended Conclusion – This is often used in sequels. Even if you are planning a sequel to your book or movie there should be a sense of closure. Most loose ends are tied up in the last chapter (scene) or two. If you leave just one or two dangling, you’ll have people talking about your book (or movie) long after the ending. The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy offers a great example of this style. Each movie ends by tying up the tale, but offering a glimpse of the unfinished business that will drive the next film. The Twilight series employs this method as well.
3. Surprise Ending - Crime stories seem to gravitate to this style. Popular movies such as Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects are great examples. (I won’t spoil the ending in case you have not seen them.) O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” is a positive example of the twist ending in a short story.
No matter what style ending you choose to give your readers, be sure not to leave a lot of unanswered questions. Remember this is your last chance to affect the audience emotionally. It must satisfy or provoke your audience as you intended.