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No Happily Ever Afters

07 Dec

Mister doesn’t seem to like stories that end with rainbows and sunshine. No “happily ever after”s for him. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to wait until he’s a little bit older to get him to explain why he feels that way. In the meantime, I can find out from other readers what kind of endings they do/don’t like. Salsanpeeps was kind enough to share:

I think I like cohesive endings – ones that tie in to the entire story.  Best example of this would be mystery stories that come together at the end.  I’m okay with surprise endings too.

I tend to agree. I like endings with all of the loose ends neatly tied up. I don’t necessarily need to see the characters riding off into the sunset, but I don’t like to have too many unanswered questions at the end of a story. And I’m okay with surprise endings too, as long as they seem logical within the story context.

What about ending don’ts? Again, salsanpeeps weighed in.

I strongly dislike open endings (leaving books / movies open for sequels).  They make me feel cheated. Life of Pi, for example, made me give up books for a few weeks.

So, what I can take from this is a list of tips for story endings.

Do: answer most of the remaining questions, use an appropriate amount of surprise where appropriate

Don’t: intentionally leave room for a sequel, be too abrupt, be illogical, be too predictable

A lot of those tips are contradictory. So, writing an ending seems to be a little bit like balancing on a high wire. How do writers do it? How can I do it?

It is true that a story’s beginning is what gets me in to the story, but the ending is my goal. I want to, and if the book is really great I feel like I need to, find out how it ends. When an ending is satisfying (notice I did not say happy, because sad endings can also be satisfying), the time spent reading that book seems justified. And I’m so much more likely to look for another book by that author.

Beginnings and endings are both vitally important to a story. Next to beginnings, I’d say endings are the trickiest to write. But, I’ve found some good advice on writing them.

I found a quote on another blog from YA author Amy Kathleen Ryan:

 “The worst thing you can do in any ending is make it too pat.  If we assume that novels imitate life, then our endings shouldn’t feel like  endings. They should feel like a new beginning for the characters. I think  readers are most gratified by an ending that allows them to imagine at least  some of the characters moving on from the grand events of your book.”

The quote doesn’t solve problem of writing a great ending (As I said above, next to beginnings, endings are the trickiest to write), but it does offer a new way to look at an ending.

Another piece of advice I’ve read is to write the end of the story first. The theory is, kind of like when you map out a trip, if you know where you’re going, planning the route seems easier.

In a book I’ve mentioned before, WRITING MAGIC by Gail Carson Levine, she recommends ending where the action stops. Let me say that again. She recommends ending where the action stops. No riding off in to the sunset for her (check out her book and her two blog posts on endings for more tips).

Whatever helps me find my story’s ending, I usually know when I’ve hit it because it just “feels right.” And if it feels right to me, then I think it most likely will for the reader too.

Do you have any more tips for ending a story? Please share them in the comments!

Links:

Another post on this blog about endings: https://betharnstein.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/cliche-but-true/

For others bothered by the LIFE OF PI ending: http://screenrant.com/life-of-pi-movie-ending-spoilers/

Another blogger’s thoughts on endings: http://thelitexpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/do-most-readers-prefer-happy-ending.html

Humorous post on some types of endings to avoid: http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/short-story-endings-to-avoid-fiction-writing-tips/

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Ending

 

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