Monday, December 3, 2012

The End of the Story

‘As for me,when I was finally back where I belonged, and as I looked into my husband’s smiling eyes, I finally understood what happily ever after could really mean.’

Me: *rolls eyes* ugh. Too sappy.

‘There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore. I am thawing.’

Me: Realistic resolution. But a little depressing.

‘His lips finally sear mine, more powerful than ever before. Wow. The solar system is finally in alignment, and I got my Do Over without even asking for it.’

Me: Not bad. Happily-ever-after with just the right amount of voice. Hmn...

‘In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.’

Me: Nice. But a little too philosophical for my taste.

See, I’m facing kind of a dilemma. One of the agent’s requests is that the ending of my story reflect the book’s ‘stand alone’ status. And, while I wrapped up all  the questions I could think of for my initial MC, the very last scene and the very last sentence of my book leaves the future of the secondary MC hanging.

Now, even though I do intend to present this back to the agent as a stand-alone novel, the truth is, I really, really don’t want to change that scene. Not because I envision writing more novels with these characters. But because I enjoy the excitement of letting the readers fill in the gap with their own imagination when it comes to this. Maybe our secondary character will turn Fossegrim. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll only turn long enough to heal from his injuries and then he’ll take measures to regain his humanity and go back to life as he knew it. We don’t really need to know. But it doesn’t hurt to wonder. And I feel like leaving those possibilities open will incite the reader to think about the book after they’ve put it down.  


Leaving a raging question at the end of a book does lead one to believe that others will follow. So, technically, it really should be changed. But no matter what I came up with during revisions, the ending just felt wrong. So I looked to my bookshelf to inspiration and was disgruntled to find very few books that were stand-alones. Today’s YA market is inundated with series (thus why the agent prefers an author try their hand at a stand-alone first).  

But finding that perfect balance of resolution, characterisation, and satisfaction has proved, well, absolutely flupping frustrating.

So, I ask you, my friends. When are some of the endings that leave you feeling satisfied as a reader? Do you prefer when everything is all wrapped up right down to how many kids the MC’s will have and what their dog is named, leaving no room for questions about their future?  Do you prefer vague endings, leaving some things open to the imagination? Realistic or happily-ever-after? And how do you think the ending of a book should change in regard to the genre? 

(The above quotes were taken from Kristan Higgan’s ‘One and Only’, Laurie Halse Anderson’s ‘Wintergirls’, Simone Elkeles ‘Perfect Chemistry’ and Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ respectively.) 


Dianne K. Salerni said...

I don't really care for the ending that, as you put it, wraps things up to the point where you know how many kids the MCs will have and what they will name their dog. I hated the Harry Potter epilogue, for instance.

I prefer the ending to be brisk, giving you a glimpse of how things have been resolved, hints to the future, and then a quick ending.

In fact, I realize I have written three manuscripts (THREE!) where the main characters are fleeing town at the end of the story -- having resolved their main conflict, but still having enough troubles to keep them moving on to new adventures. One of them was meant to be a stand-alone. You know which one, Katie: Mick and Henry are on the run at the end of Voltage, but the reader knows exactly what their future holds. The other two *could've been* stand-alones, but I was hoping they wouldn't be.

Old Kitty said...

For me I know the story ended perfectly when I sigh very loudly to myself! So it can be neat, leave me dangling, or create more questions than answers but so long as it feels right and I'm left wanting to re-read the story again!

Good luck finding your perfect ending!!

Take care

Natalie Aguirre said...

Perhaps your critque partner can help you get your end right for the agent. I like them like Dianne said. Keep in mind you may be able to change it with your editor later.

Karen Baldwin said...

I just finished a book that at the end left me going, huh? I read this whole book and all you give me is a measly ending? I want all the loose ends tied up. It doesn't have to take long, just don't leave me hanging.

Laura Pauling said...

For me it totally depends on the book and the genre. I do like endings where they show the main characters hinting at what they're going to do next or off to do something...usually something that has ties earlier into the story, so we see they're life isn't ending.

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. This is tough. See, I've personally got no problem with an ambiguous, even slightly sad, ending, but I suppose the market doesn't really like it. I'll have to let you know what I think of yours when I get there. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess I like the ones that wrap up at the end. If I enjoyed the book, I don't need a teaser at the end. I'll pick up the next book by that author regardless.

Anne Gallagher said...

I like all the loose ends tied up, perhaps not too tight though, with one question left open. It's a hard thing to achieve, but when it works, it's great.

mshatch said...

I agree with Dianne and Old Kitty. The ending has to feel like the 'proper' ending.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I prefer leaving endings with a bit of mystery, like the future is going to continue. In real life, even after a major event, life goes on into the unknown. I like that, gets my reader's brain all creative.

Louise said...

I prefer endings that satisfy the questions/issues raised in the story, but don't wrap EVERYTHING up with a nice big bow. Not too much to ask, right? :-)

Good luck with your ending - I find endings even harder to write than beginnings!

Rachel said...

I prefer ambigious endings. I just rewrote mine where the MC realizes she wants to live and that she didn't want to die (suicide pact blah blah) and she goes downstairs to her basement to paint, which she hasn't done in a year.... Anyway she ends with "it was not perfect but it was a start" meaning that life is still bumpy/not so great. I really rushed my ending so my suggestion is - DON'T DO THAT KATIE!!!!!!

I actually just wrote an entire blog post on REVISE AND RESUBMITS on my blog :-) thought you might like to check it out.

Good luck with wrapping up your own R&R

prerna pickett said...

it really just depends on the book, the type of tone it carries through out the whole novel. If it's sappy all the way through, then a sappy ending fits. If it's more philosophical, then the ending should be too.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Leaving a reader hanging worked for "Gone with the Wind". And Lois Lowry at the end of "The Giver" leaves the story up in the air. As a reader, if a writer lets me imagine my own ending...I will. I'm the boss.

LTM said...

Oh, man. We went back and forth with the ending of ROUGE for this very reason. Trying to make it a stand-alone when I wanted it to be a series. Ultimately I got my wish, and it's a series.

As for TTAF, it took me FOREVER to get to the right ending that felt like a close, but wasn't to "pat." You know? I guess that's my answer to your question.

As for your secondary character--I wouldn't think it would be a problem to leave him/her unresolved so long as the MC is resolved? But I don't know. GOOD LUCK with it. These dilemmas are HARD!!! :P <3

Unknown said...

Every ending -- like every piece of writing, music or art -- will appeal to different people. There's no "best;" only personal taste.

The agent's personal taste is to want a closed ending (and maybe he/she knows editors with that pet peeve). I suggest you change it.

(And HUGE congrats on getting an R&R!! I'd kill for one. I'd kill for any kind of help from an industry professional.)

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I am notoriously picky as regards endings. I've seen endings that have utterly ruined otherwise great books for me, whether they be series of standalone.

While I read series' more than standalones, you might want to check out Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz. She writes excellent standalones, and Invincible Summer ends with a fantastic balance of loose ends tied up, but enough left unsaid that the reader can be left to imagine what might happen in the future for the characters.

Mark Murata said...

For young adult books, the readers don't want to know how many kids the couple will have. That's too similar to saying how old they are when they die.

Look at the Peter Pan movie starring Rachel Hurd-Wood. They were wise not to go with the alternate ending that showed Wendy had grown up and could not have adventures anymore. As Old Kitty said above, it has to be emotionally satisfying. But that will take different forms for different stories

DL Hammons said...

A definition of "loose ends" would really help here. Life is full of loose ends, so there's no need to wrap everything up in a bow. But I do insist that the major conflicts be resolved and I'm not left hanging for the next book. :)


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