Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Loved You, But You Kinda Lost Me There At The End

Between the disappointing ending of a certain TV show and struggling to come up with the perfect ending for my story, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good ending.

Since I started writing, disappointment seems to be a regular part of my reading experience, especially when it comes to endings. Of the last ten books I’ve read, I’ve only been satisfied with two endings. Two. Is that number low?

It’s not like I go into reading intending to be critical and find all the things wrong with a book. I really want to get lost in a story to the point I can’t put it down. And when I’m done, I want to feel like I didn’t waste my time. I absolutely LOVE when I finish a book and I think, “Oh no. It’s over? I didn’t want it to end.” That’s the ultimate test for me. Am I left feeling like the main storyline was resolved (happy or sad) but still craving more?

Lately, though, my thoughts fall more in line with, “What? Really? That’s it? But what about this, this, and this?” (especially for the final episode of that one show) Or, “Really? That was way too easy. It would totally never happen that way.” Or the worst, “Nothing was resolved?! Argh! No, frustrating author, I will not be buying your sequel so I can be disappointed again.” I’m fine with a little bit of a cliffhanger, but just ending mid-story makes me batty.

What do you all think? What makes a good ending? Do you want absolute resolution? Or do you like an ending that leaves a little or even a lot open to interpretation? Any books you recommend with awesome endings?


  1. I think a lot of endings these days are written so that they are commercially viable. It IS disappointing. I want a really creative ending for a change. something that would make the publishers say 'oh no, definitely not' and the reader say 'oh, what a nice surprise!'

  2. I've been having trouble with the ending of my novel too. But I finally gave myself permission to actually resolve things. I hope it turns out great. I like happy endings in general, but anything that leaves me satisfied, that evokes an emotional response is a great ending to me.

  3. I don't need all the loops closed at the ending, it all depends on how the author does it. It can be happy or sad as long as I understand it and it makes sense.

    But, yes. Being a writer makes it much harder to find a great book!

  4. I'm still frustrated by that ending, you know the one I mean. ;)

    I'm the type of reader (and TV watcher) that needs to have everything as wrapped up as possible, which I strive for in my own writing.

    Of course, just because everything is resolved doesn't mean everything should be all happiness and rainbows. Read the original ending to Great Expectations some time. ;)

  5. I struggle most with endings. They are so dang difficult! :-)

  6. Oh, I love the endings. My last novel had this opening scene that I thought was wonderful -- a midnight murder in a graveyard behind a backwoods church -- and I kept hacking at my backstory until I got to the beginning of the novel.

    I accidentally wrote it backward.

    That's how most of my work begins: with an ending. Snippy. Snarky. Snappy.


    That's how I like my endings.

    As they say in the port towns: "You like full story with happy finish?"

    "Yes I would, please, at a medium pace."

    - Eric

  7. I think the Thirteenth Tale had an awesome ending. It made me want to read the book all over again.

    I'm not too picky. I prefer things to be resolved but if they're not, I'll let my imagination finish it. :)

  8. Sounds like we're the same way. I like complete resolution... unless there is another book, then I just want one little thread to string me along, to keep me thinking about it.

    Endings are tricky. But if they weren't, they wouldn't fun to write or read!

    And hey, I've missed your blog. Sorry I've been away for so long!

  9. Even though I was frustrated with the ending of THAT show, I still liked it overall. I was happy to see (most) of the characters together again at the end.

    I don't have to have all things tied up nicely when reading a book, but I do like to have the ending make sense. If the resolution comes out of nowhere, I feel cheated.

  10. I despise when television shows end--as in really END--with no ending. I think it's disrespectful to an audience that has followed and supported a show for that long. For example, the L Word: I adored that show. And then the last season, they developed this crazy, contrived plot just to create drama, this big "Whodunnit," and didn't. Resolve. Anything. Nothing. Pissed me the hell off, that's what it did. Now Buffy the Vampire Slayer--that series left something open, but it had a satisfying ending as well. I mean, it's not like that "world" ends just b/c the show does, so I'm okay with some ambiguity (prefer it, even, to the whole end-with-a-kiss crap), but come on, people ...

    Bookwise: I just finished Julie Ann Peters' By the Time You Read this I'll be Dead. I thought it was really gripping (even though not a whole lot was happening) and found it tough to put down. The ending? It was so ambiguous that I kind of thought it was perfect, but also kind of hated it. It definitely made me think, made me reread the final pages several times. But it also made me want to pull out my hair. (Have you read it? I need someone else's opinion.)

    (p.s. Are we talking Lost here? Because I don't watch the show, but it's the only one on right now I can think that just end-ended.)

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  12. I am so guilty of this. (red-faced and shaking). And I feel so badly. It was my first book and I'll NEVER, EVER do it again. Believe me! No more cliffhanger endings. My next book goes to press next week and it's a stand alone with what I believe is a good ending and definitely not a cliffhanger.

    Have I groveled enough, yet?

  13. I like an ending where the characters get to talk things over a bit and decompress. "The Hobbit" has one of the best endings ever. Gandalf and Bilbo are sitting in the kitchen having tea and talking about their adventures, and Bilbo starts bragging a bit.

    Gandalf says, "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapades were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? are only quite a little fellow in the wide world after all!"

    "Thank goodness!" said Bilbo, laughing, and handed him the tobacco jar.

    Just a couple of friends talking things over, but an implication that there is more to come from the finding of the ring, and (which is more important) an eternal perspective upon our destinies - they in the control of a larger power. I just love those kinds of endings.

  14. Yes, LOST left me melancholy and pensive. But it also made me think, which is good in an ending.

    I think a satisfying ending for me is a happy one where the MC's get what they want after a great struggle. (And the bad guys get what they deserve as well!)

  15. The endings of Tamora Pierce's books generally leave me quite satisfied. What I like so much about her books is that while they're in series, and there's an overall plot, each book wraps a plot start to finish. And the endings serve well to move the character arc forward along with the overall plot.

  16. I admit, I like clean, tidied up endings. Okay, not everyone survives to see the ending, but for those that do, it's a good one.

  17. Yes, that ending on Lost was just ... not satisfying. With all the focus in book publishing on great beginnings I think a lot of writers spend most of their time on that when it's a fabulous ending that might make a reader buy your next book! When I'm writing I have to know in my mind, as I'm writing, what that ending will be. Sometimes I even know the last sentence. A little ambiguity - especially in YA because the characters will still have so much of their lives to experience - is okay. But plot points? Gah - don't leave them hanging!

  18. I'm so glad I didn't watch the show, considering what I heard about the ending. :D

    I hate endings that leave me unsatisfied, especially if there's a sequel. You don't have to tie up everything, but don't leave me wondering if the printer forgot to print the ending.

    I love endings that feel right (okay, that doesn't help much), and don't come off like the author lost interest in writing the book.

  19. In the genre I write in (mystery/suspense), endings that are left open to interpretation are unsatisfactory. A nice bow on top is preferable.

  20. I like endings that tie up most, if not all, of the loose ends. I hate the endings that leave you hanging – it’s like the author just got tired of writing the story or didn’t know how to end it either.

  21. I like an ending that leaves something open. I like happy endings but sometimes I like the endings that don't turn out so well. It's true the beginning and the end are the hardest part to write. I totally agree on that.
    P.S. There is something for you on my blog.