That story went through a number of endings. For a while, Spooky went to live with one of his sons in the city, nothing exciting for Louise happened at the end, but we find out that Uncle Matt is never able to escape the town. Then, for a while, it ended with them standing in front of the house, Spooky being sad, and Louise calls the dog and, for the first time in its life, it comes when someone calls it and Spooky realizes that Louise is special and is happy to see the dog again. Spooky still goes to live with one of his sons in the city, Louise inherits the dog, and mysteriously, when she’s older and telling this story, she still has the dog. Matt is still stuck in that town. Then, for a while, it ended with all that and a long explanation about how the dog was immortal because it had dug its way into Hell and then back out again and the bad guys wanted it because it was immortal and magic.
All of these had their awesome elements. But they weren’t quite right.
And I think the reason they weren’t quite right is that they moved the focus off of Louise. This is was a tricky thing for me to figure out, because, in my mind, this story was about Louise and her grandfather, with the dog and Matt being kind of equally important minor characters. So, Spooky has an arc, a kind of sad arc, where we seem him disappointed and more disappointed and then losing his house. In spite of all his power, he can’t make a life that makes him happy. And Louise has an arc, where she realizes that she’s inherited the family power.
So, the ending to the story seemed like it should be “how it ended up for everyone.”
But, once I realized that Spooky has always been disappointed and miserable, the main character was obviously Louise. Once you realized Louise is the character, a lot of questions spring to mind. What does it mean to have this kind of power in your family? Could you have it? What would it mean for you to have it? Would you have to be as miserable as Spooky?
The story doesn’t really answer these questions, though. To me, the arc of Louise is realizing that something that has been kept from her is going on, as is often the case for children, and that she is a part of that thing. How will she react to that knowledge?
So, the ending of the story, I realized, needed only to be “What does Louise find out and how will she react to that?”
And, though it isn’t 100% clear how she reacts to it on a first read through, I did try to leave a couple of clues in the story as to what happens.
Anyway, long story short: if your ending is not working, sometimes you don’t need more words, you need tighter focus.