Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Endings

This was a hard decision. As an editor, my first thought for the letter E was something editing related, and I have an editing checklist I could have used but it's rather long. Then I thought about something a lot of people have trouble with, the ellipsis, but again, that was a rather long post.

So then I thought of something I'm not seeing a lot of these days - a good ending to a story/novel. I don't know about you, but I'm seeing a rash of serials this days. Now when the author is up front and lets you know the story/book ends on a cliff hanger and you have to buy the next one in the series for the story to continue, that's fine. But when I read a book that ends abruptly and without warning - well, that gets my dander up.

Before I segue into rant mode over cliffhangers, let's talk a bit about proper endings.

Can't say I've ever been too fond of beginnings, myself. Messy little things. Give me a good ending anytime. You know where you are with an ending.
~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

While it’s true that a strong opening can pull a reader into the story, a strong ending is just as important. A good ending is the reader’s reward for sticking with the story. It not only leaves the reader satisfied, but it will also send them in search of more stories by the same author.

The beginning is all about providing the main character with an overall goal and making him decide to act on it. The middle shows him taking action, or a whole series of actions. The ending deals with the consequences of these actions.

You cannot promise apples in the beginning of your story and deliver oranges at the end. A satisfying conclusion to a novel happens when the ending is fitting, when the characters get what they deserve, and when the questions asked at the start of the novel are answered.

How do you create an ending that delivers?
~ make sure the ending is logical
~ the hero should find a way to solve his own problem
~ resolve any subplot
~ tie up all loose ends
~ leave the reader with a strong sentence, thought or emotion

There are, of course, degrees of being fitting or definitive. The hero should win, but that doesn’t mean his experience won’t leave him without scars. And although the ending should be clear, that isn’t to say you have to spell out everything for your readers. Sometimes leaving something to their imaginations or curiosity isn’t a bad thing.

Everything has to come to an end, sometime.
~ L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

1 comment:

alberta ross said...

So agree - the ending is almost the most important part of the chain - I don't mind an uncertain ending/ left to my imagination ending if the story before justifies it - but on the whole if I have invested time and emotion in the characters and their lives I think I deserve some kind of conclusion.

Equally any ending tacked on the end is just plain insulting, sometimes they are so hurried and obvious you wonder what the author was about!

In the book groups I belong to this is a hotly debated item at most meetings - raises the temperature frequently:)