Integral ending

I recently read a book. I loved it; a cynical, jaded, altogether unsympathetic main character made through sharp dialogue and subtlety in action into the anti-hero you want to cheer on, even if he’s doing all the wrong things.

Then the ending happened.

I won’t say it was a bad ending. It tidied everything up neatly, took care of all the problems, and set the (remaining) characters off on their way with the right degree of this is completed, but there’s more for these people in life. Still, the ending. It niggles at me as too quick, too wrapped up. It rushed through a somewhat surprising turn and almost seemed to state, “There. All the loose ends have been taken care of. Are you satisfied?”

The answer to my imagined question is, unfortunately, no. Not really. The ended could have, and from my perspective, should have been drawn out further. The final chapter lacked the same wry interaction (largely because most of the characters died), and I felt like the protagonist began acting outside of his normal bounds, without a proper reason. Oh, sure, I know what part of the story was meant to act as the turning point, his trigger to behaving a little more compassionate. But I didn’t believe it.

Just because I can identify the when and why of this character’s motivation doesn’t mean I buy it.

Maybe that’s me being weird. Maybe it’s my background in psychology making the developments ring false. I would probably need to re-read the book, perhaps even several times, before I could pin down exactly what throws me about the ending.

Nevertheless, I’ve learnt something from this story, which I still think is pretty awesome. The ending is actually the most important part of your story. It’s the last taste we get of your characters, and the world they are in. It’s the part which will linger, because it’s the freshest in our memory. A weak ending could very easily ruin an otherwise good book.

Cue writer’s paranoia! Does my ending measure up? Have I made it too obvious and forced that all the pieces are coming together and being taken care of? Does it finish at the right pace?

It’s a wonder I’ve survived being an author as long as I have. Egad.

~A

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12 thoughts on “Integral ending

  1. Endings are so tough — I hate reading a book without feeling like there’s enough closure…. but I also can see that you want to leave a reader wanting something more. I’ve been grappling with the ending (and the beginning too) of my WIP — wanting to make it tie everything up and make it memorable but also leaving a little open to the reader…. it’s a tough call!

    1. I think a good ending doesn’t need to have anything which directly suggests there’s more for the characters, so much as they are in a good place to take on the rest of their lives. That’s really what a “Happily Ever After” says; they came to a place where the rest of their lives turns out great. It’s a tough one to hint at, though!

      ~A

  2. Good point. I think a lot of novelists are told how important the beginning is so often (to hook a reader, interest an agent, please an editor) that a lot of us forget about the big bad ending. It stands to reason that we should spend just as much time polishing and perfecting the ending as we do the beginning, but I don’t think most writers do. This is a good reminder, though!

    1. There really is an uneven focus on the beginning, isn’t there? Which doesn’t make much sense in the long run. I perfect beginning won’t make up for the rest of the book not receiving the same dedicated attention.

      ~A

  3. As a fan of romance in fiction, I prefer some happily ever after, but if I really think about this… many books I’ve liked have left me stunned at the end. In fact, a few of the books I’ve thought about long after reading them are not h.e.a. books. Hmm… Cue writer’s paranoia for me. And let me tell you, I’ve already spent WAY too much time on my first sentence, paragraph, and page of my WIP. Reading this post is a good reminder that the ending is where I should spend my time, too.

  4. I agree! I’d even say that the ending is more important than the beginning. I’ll slog through a slower beginning, but a horrible ending sticks with me and generally deters me from reading the author again. (Not forever, of course.)

    Also- oh the worrying and paranoia. It’s okay because that means you’re doing something right, right?

    1. There certainly is a good possibility that enough Ending Disappointment (ooh proper nouns now) would turn me off trying more of a writer’s work!

      I like to hope so. It means that I’m aware of these potential problems, at least. I’d prefer to be worried and paranoid than oblivious!

      ~A

  5. OH. MY. GOD. You have described my WIP exactly. (I’ll take liberty with the idea that you’d love it.)

    And as with my previous two novels, it’s the ending that’s killing me. I’ve rewritten it a half-dozen times, always feeling certain that the last revision nails it. Until I read it again…

    I plan to revisit it again this weekend, and this time it will be perfect, right? Right??

    1. Of course I’m going to love it. Your style with that kind of main character has to be awesome and I can’t wait to read it. 😀

      Endings really aren’t easy. Like everything, there will come a time when you work it out. I don’t know when that time is, but you’ll make it! (I sure haven’t found my way there, yet! If you get there first, save me a seat! XD)

      ~A

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