Last Fall Tessa Hadley was interviewed by BBC Radio 4's James Naughtie about three stories in her collection Married Love. What interested me most - but wasn't discussed much - were her thoughts on endings. You can listen to the full podcast here but to summarize, she says: stories must take a turn and that you should leave something left over, a note of yearning at the end.
To me this means you begin with the characters at a certain point, then in the course of the story their circumstances change, and there is a turn so that they are left somewhere else. Or the reader begins at a point - perhaps with an assumption - and by the end the turn takes place in the reader's mind. The reader comes to a realization or their assumptions are proven wrong.
As for the yearning….there is always that unfinished note at the end of Hadley's stories. I don't think I had ever consciously realized that but it's true. The characters feel like they are left longing or I am. This is one of those characteristics that I love about her stories, that I want to emulate but can't because I can't even really articulate what it is that she does or how she does it.
And then this from Hadley on endings: "If ever you can take off the last paragraph and it still works then you didn't need that last paragraph."