Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Endings are Hard

After I published my last novel, I received one (yep, only one) FB message asking if I'd forgotten to include all of the pages in the Kindle edition. 


I'd given away 11,000 copies of the book. Were they all defective? Were readers left wondering what happened to the hero? This could explain the poor sales.

I investigated. The ending was there as written, but it evidently wasn't strong enough for this reader. Also, I suspect that her eReaders caught her unaware. Perhaps the ending was perfectly fine, but without the physicality of the book and its diminishing pages to clue her in, the ending fell into her lap. (This has happened to me.)

To determine if I'd written a strong enough ending, I revisited my hero's desires and needs. Did she satisfy her desire, a goal she can achieve within the scope of the story? Yes, her family is intact. As to her needs, does she resolve the thing that is hampering her from leading a good life? Yes, she is able to forgive herself and trust others. 

So far, so good.

Does the ending evoke an emotional response in the reader?

I thought so.

The hero not only has her family, but she reconnects with a love interest. She has a future, not explicitly spelled out but definitely pointing in the right direction. She turns her pain around to accept and love the imperfect. She's taking a huge risk, for crying out loud! 

It's the kind of ending I like. The important points are resolved, and the hero is set in motion toward a promising future with the requisite challenges. There are minor things left unresolved for the reader to play with. 

But some readers aren't as comfortable with ambiguity. They would have us sit our characters around a table to report their plans for the future.


Actually, I'm struggling with the ending--the denouement--of my WIP. Technically, this is where things get resolved. But structurally I'm wondering if this isn't where the character arc for our hero reaches the pot of gold. This is where we show his or her growth. 


Books on writing are strangely silent on endings. They use vague words like "satisfying," if they say anything at all. 

Can we discuss this?

Wait, I'm supposed to finish my post...

1 comment:

Megan Sayer said...

I concur on the endings-are-hard thing. Very much so.
Christopher Vogler, in The Writer's Journey (which is, in my opinion, one of the very best craft books) makes the interesting observation that Americans tend to like stories that wrap up neatly, whereas Australians prefer more open-ended stories. Obviously there are many exceptions, but I think, in a very broad sense, he's right. Maybe this is what your reader was hoping for, too: a good strong circular story with a nice bow at the end.
I don't like those endings much. I don't much like wide open endings, either...yes, I'm very fussy :)
One of my very favourite novels ever is Peter Hoeg's "Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow", a Danish book, which I've always said has THE most open, unresolved, far-and-away-from-where-we-started ending I've ever read...but as I write this I'm understanding for the first time that although the novel may not have resolved in the way I'd expected (or would have been satisfied with), but the character ended in the place where she - not the story, but SHE - began. Hmmm. I need to think about that some more...