Third, what makes the ending satisfying is what comes before – be it the beginning of the essay or, in a novel, the slow build of theme and problem in the middle. In other words, what makes an ending satisfying is when the people you’ve been rooting for win and the right sobs you wanted dead die. This might seem simplistic. “But what if there’s no one whom you want to win? No one you want to lose?” Well, then it’s possible you’re writing grey goo. Look, weirdly, people don’t read to experience what they experience in daily life. The difference in fiction is that it makes sense and we know whom to root for. This is, btw, the difference between Marlowe and Shakespeare. Marlowe was far more realistic, and in a way, probably “better” in the sense that he tried to make it harder to root for someone. (Oooh, so sharp he cut himself, right?) But Shakespeare, by clearly signaling who to root for, grounded people in the story and left the way open to concentrate on the really important stuff, like “real” characters and making everything else seem vitally important. In other words, he used the “whom to root for” as scaffolding and upon it built the “slice of humanity” important stuff. Because humans like things to make sense, that gave him a huge advantage.