“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series.
The concept of the end of a story is a strange one. As Herbert says, there can never really be an ending. As writers, we just choose to stop telling a story at a certain point – hopefully the point before it becomes boring or tedious or repetitive or annoying. There is always “more,” I think, but the “more” shouldn’t always be told. It reminds me of soap operas – there is no end, because life always goes on, after the marriage, after the death, after the fire or the car crash or the break up. Soap writers have to continually make the “more” interesting enough to keep people watching. It needs to be engaging enough to make the viewer (or the reader) want to know about it. Often this ends up with quite incredulous story lines that probably wouldn’t happen to real people, but this is part of their appeal.
I wrote about this recently with regards to the continuation of the Harry Potter franchise, and the fact that some fans consider the series to have finished with the last book, The Deathly Hallows. On one hand, its inconceivable that there isn’t and could never be more of this story to tell. The line “And they all lived happily ever after” only belongs in fairy tales, and sometimes not even then. But on the other hand, I also believe that some things are best left to the reader’s imagination. I hate it when series never seem to end. Books can be like snapshots of life, whether set in the real world or a fantastical one, and though a story may never have a real ending, a writer must choose which is the best point to stop.