Monday, November 8, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Endings

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On Mondays I blog about writing. Usually it's something a little off the wall or an exercise or a commentary on things we need to be aware of. Rarely will you find any sort of how-to post here. For starters, they're everywhere by writers with a lot more street creds than I have.

But the real reason I choose not to do how-to is because every writer has his or her own way of doing things, especially writing things. If I do post about something particular, it's always what works for me, or how I accomplish something. Maybe it will work for you or maybe it won't. Or maybe it will give you an idea or two of your own to try. Or share what works for you.

Even if I forget to say it, it's never meant as you MUST do it this way.

Today I want to chat about endings. What's worse than reading a story that has you enthralled or caught up in how the plot would resolve or how the hero and heroine would ever get together . . . only to go "what?" when you finish the last page.

Over the past few months I've read several novels. Most of them had full, satisfying endings. Then there were two.

One just stopped. There was barely a climax - don't go there - and definitely no denouement. I wanted to know what happened next . . . and I never did find out. Except for making up my own ending.

The other kept on going and going and going following the climax. But had I blinked, I would've missed the denouement. A good twenty pages, maybe more, all still devoted to how the characters related to one another. The author had spent the majority of the book belaboring these relationships, and why I kept reading, I'm not sure, except the author was highly recommended. The story was finished, done, over, kaput - yet the author still hadn't had enough. I wanted to scream.

I know who these authors are, and I won't read them again, at least not for a long while. There are others on this same list of mine. People obviously like them. Some regularly make the bestseller lists. But I still think they could write better endings. And I still won't read them again.

The ending needs to fit the story. How simple is that?

Don't let yours fall short. Or long. Make it just right.

Like Goldilocks :)

31 comments:

Talei said...

Good point Carol! Endings are so important, I get disenchanted if they're not quite right! I have to be honest if a story meanders...then I usually put the book down. I'm hoping for a Goldilocks ending in my current story too.

Terry Odell said...

I couldn't end my first book--loved the characters too much. However, I solved that 'problem' by writing vignettes and short stories, a prologue and an epilogue--and finally an actual sequel to the book.

It's hard for me to bring a book to a close, especially a romantic suspense where you have to 'end' the mystery part and then 'end' the relationship part (with the HEA, of course).

(For anyone interested, a lot of those bits and pieces are now free reads or very inexpensive downloads - details on my website)

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Holly Ruggiero said...

Yup, the ending is just as important as the beginning - if you want to keep your readers that is.

LR said...

I just finished a novel and found that the author did a fine job of tying everything up at the end. I think a reader deserves a satisfying ending.

Joanne said...

There's nothing worse than an ending that leaves you with "Huh?" Especially after investing hours of time into the reading. And I love that Goldilocks reference, it really says it all!

Carol Kilgore said...

Talei - I usually put it down, too. After that one, I was a little ticked at myself for reading the whole thing.

Terry - I'm laughing because I did the same thing. My first manuscript actually began as a short story and ended up being two novels. Both still unpublished.

Holly - Exactly.

LR - Yes, that satisfying ending is our goal. I'm happy you liked your recent read.

Joanne - I agree about the 'huh' feeling. Glad you like Goldilocks :)

Mason Canyon said...

When you read a story with a 'huh' ending it definitely makes you think twice before you read another book by that author. The ending is very important. Without a good ending, most readers won't return.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

VR Barkowski said...

While not a fan of the HEA where everything is tied up in a pretty bow, there is a difference between leaving readers with "I want to read more about these characters" ending and a "what the hell just happened" ending. Writing the latter should be a punishable offense.

kimberlyloomis said...

Oh, so very true. Timing is, most certainly of utmost importance in a work. Sure, the pace can falter somewhere in the middle (or sooner), but many readers are forgiving of a little transgression now and again IF the payoff seems guaranteed. Okay, at least that's the way it is for me. ;)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I agree. I feel so cheated when I get to the end of a book and it simply stops – nothing is resolved. It's like the author didn't know what to do next, so he or she just ends it.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

It doesn't have to be an ending with unicorns dancing on rainbows or an ending with lightening and ominous cello vibrations, but please - an ending. I can't stand when I finish a book and my first thought is "That's IT??" *growl*

Conda V. Douglas said...

Good post, Carol--endings are what the readers are left with last.

Talli Roland said...

Sounds simple but endings are SO hard! You have to give the reader the pay-off they deserve, which can be no mean feat. I always ended up rewriting the endings over and over... and pray that I get it right!

Happy Monday, Carol!

Carol Kilgore said...

Mason - Right. And no writer wants that.

VR - I agree. Not all stories have a HEA, but they do need a resolution. And it needs to be true to the story and the characters.

Kimberly - I think most readers are like that.

Jane - Yes! It's bad when it just ends and the ending somewhat resembles the story. But when it just ends and has nothing to do with the story, it's really bad.

Elspeth - I totally agree.

Conda - So true. We either leave them emotionally satisfied or not. And if not, we probably won't see them again with one of our books.

Talli - I usually rewrite mine, too. A few times. But not as many as I rewrite the opening. Happy Monday back :)

Lydia Kang said...

I basicially agree. The ending must fit the story. I think your said it well, and it explains why I've had problems with some of the endings I've read as well.

Carol Kilgore said...

Lydia - I always feel as if I've wasted a huge amount of time when the ending is bad.

Sheila Deeth said...

I was talking math with my husband, how the solution's not right if it's not beautiful. I feel the same way about endings.

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Angela said...

Doesn`t a lector help you with these things? They (beginnings and endings) are the most important parts of a book! I remember how my daughter was not satisfied with an ending of the book I had just read to her, and she insisted I had to invent a complete satisfying new ending!
Good thoughts here, always!

Helen Ginger said...

I totally know what you mean. As a reader, you put hours into a book then come to the end and you're so disappointed you stare at the book, turn the page to see if surely there's more. Not many books are that way, but when you come across one, you wonder what you missed or what happened.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sheila - Talking math. A beautiful solution for me is when my bank account balances. Otherwise all the talk is four-letter words, I'm afraid.

Angela - Thanks for visiting. I love your daughter's way of thinking.

Helen - Exactly. I often wonder if I missed something. Sometimes I find out I did, but not often.

Hart Johnson said...

I'm much more likely to get annoyed with a too fast than a too slow ending... just cutting off bugs the crap out of me... an ending that might as well be an epilogue, I can normally live with.

That said, the endings that bug the hell out of me are the WTF endings... Stephen King has a couple GREAT books that suddenly come up to the 'what the hell was this guy sniffing?' at the end--it is such a disappointment when it follows a really masterfully done main book (IT and Tommyknockers come to mind)

I always have to rewrite my endings a couple times... my tendency is to write too fast at first, then give too much extra... the 3rd ending is where it is finally just right...

Carol Kilgore said...

Hart - You're a real Goldilocks!

Manzanita said...

Like the endings of some of the old movies. Boom. They just end. But who cares when they're old Fred Astaire movies and he's already done his dancing!!!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Yes! The stories need to end *well.* And fit the story. Otherwise, it's like the author has broken a promise to the reader who has stuck with a story throughout the book.

Great post!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I know! I can forgive a bad beginning but I find it hard to forgive a bad ending.
Once I read a book where it was a suspense book and the ending turned out to be a kind of misunderstanding.
Seriously.
I couldn't believe something like that got published except that it was by a very well-known author who had tons of books under her belt.
Grrrr....

Carol Kilgore said...

Manzanita - Fred and Ginger! Such classics. I don't remember any of the movies, but I remember the dancing. I used to watch the old black and white movies with my mom on television.

Elizabeth - Yes, it's exactly like that...a broken promise.

Jennifer - Yuk. I'm glad I didn't read that one. But it's so true that well-known authors can do things us lesser mortals cannot. Sigh.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

When it's over, it's over!

Tiki Team - I like that. Your Team, my Army - we'll take over the world!

Carol Kilgore said...

Alex - The world is OURS!

Laura Eno said...

I'm sorry...I think I was otherwise involved when you and Alex took over the world...is there still chocolate?

I agree with the Goldilocks theory. A story HAS to have a satisfying ending, whether it's happy or sad, the loose ends need to be tied up.

Carol Kilgore said...

Laura - Always chocolate!
And always a space for Chronos & Co.