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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Endings Are Important, too...aren't they?

I began keeping a list of every book I read--or tried to. Already, my list is long. For my own private notes, I use a check mark for books I liked very much, a check mark plus for an outstanding read, and a question mark for books that bewildered me in some way, or did not have a good ending. Most of the books have check marks. Very few have a question mark or a plus.

Something about each Check Mark Plus story made an impression on me, which made me think about it after I read the last page. Notice I didn't say "a happy impression." Not all the books had the same kind of ending, but all the story lines were good. They held my attention. I turned the pages...digitally...anticipating the next scene. And…I liked the ending, and maybe even remembered it for some time.

Remember "Gone With the Wind?" Who could not remember the story and especially—the ending. "I'll worry about that later. After all. Tomorrow is another day." It did not end happily, at least for Scarlet and Rhett, but it left us hanging a little. What would Scarlet do? We felt certain she would survive and move on, so we weren't very distressed. What would Rhett do? Probably he would return to his old habits and continue being the rogue that he was—with a broken heart, of course. The ending gave us a rare opportunity to imagine the next phase of their lives.

What does a reader wait for at the end? Satisfaction is the key word. The novel must have an ending that satisfies the reader. If not, the reader most likely will not return to that particular author. Just what does "satisfy" mean?

1. To answer or discharge a claim in full.
2. To make happy.
3. To pay what is due.
4. Convince.
5. To meet the requirements.

Surprised? A satisfactory ending does not always mean the same as "A Happy Ending." Nor does "a happy ending" hold the same meaning for everyone. For faithful romance authors and readers, a HEA is a requirement. Ninety percent of the books I read fall into this category. Even though I do read others that I know won't end happily, I look for some satisfaction for my protagonist—and myself.

~*~Did the author leave a glimmer of hope for happiness for my protagonist?
~*~Did the author make me believe wholeheartedly that the story was worth the time and emotional commitment I put into it?
~*~Did the author leave me with a lasting impression that her next book will be just as good?
~*~Did the author conclude the story with enough emotion to make me cry, laugh, or say "Yessss."

If none of these happen, you can bet I won't buy her next book.
What was the last book you read that did not have a perfect HEA, but you liked it because of the ending?

What is the best kind of ending for you to recommend a book?

A few good endings:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have even done" it is a far, far better rest that I do to than I have ever known."-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

"God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world," whispered Anne, softly, softly.-Anne of Green Gables.

"I showed them," he was saying. "It was a hard fight, but I didn't give up and I came through." The Beautiful and the Damned.-F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Well, girls, that's the best part of this whole crazy adventure. Her name was Annie."-Kay Bratt-Red Skies: Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters.
I'd love to include some of the good endings found in PRP books, but I feared leaving someone out or seeming to play favorites. Since the PRP books are generally a bit different from the run-of-the-mill romances, you may assume many, if not most, had good lines at the ending.

From my own PRP short titled Starr Bright, the last line:
She laughed. "I have no idea, but maybe it'll be all the sweeter for it."

Care to share the last line of one of your own favorite stories?
If you're not an author, care to share the last line you loved in a story?
Thanks so much for visiting the PRP blog, today.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. Celia, I can like a story even if the ending wasn't that great. For me to hang onto the story, it must leave me with a feeling deep in my person, that it was true. Eveb if I don't remember the exact words, I was satisfied when I finished.
    While I love HEA, I want the reason to be real, even if the characters were less than perfect. In fact the more imperfection, the more I want them to be happy. See you made me think about this, and for that I thank you. Doris/Angela

  2. Thought provoking post, Celia. I like HEA but don't mind a "happy for now" ending that points to a future book. I'm employing that type of ending in each book of my Romancing the Guardians series. Here's the last line from book one, Rescuing Lara:

    "The future held unknown danger, but with Conn by her side, she found it far less frightening."

    1. I remember reading about your Romancing the Guardian series. An ending becomes even more important in this case, and as you have done..leading the reader on to the next story. Well done, and best wishes for the success of the series!

  3. Doris--Endings are important, but not necessarily the last sentence. I found hundreds of famous last words from many old and new novels. I LOVE lists, so it was fun to read what others considered great endings. I certainly didn't agree with all of them that they were that great, but's something to consider. Like you, I want the ending to be real--calm and sweet, or wildly outrageous...I only want it to fit the story. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject.

  4. Celia, as always I enjoyed your post and thanks for giving us good food for thought. I definitely agree, I like that last bit of happy ending, a good line to leave me with--golly I liked that story, plus having a smile on my face. In my short story Brighter Tomorrows in the anthology A COWBOY CELEBRATION (for the Fourth of July), I had the hero and heroine watching showers of glorious bright colors overhead and laughing at the loud booms after finally declaring their love minutes before. He whispers in her ear,""What do you say to going home to make our own fireworks?" I hope I brought a smile to the reader's face after all my heroine and hero had gone through. And what a naughty sheriff he had become. Did I say they weren't married yet?

    1. Not married yet? See? You can break the rules with the right publisher. I love it.
      That line is very sweet and yes, it definitely would bring a smile to any reader's face. In this case, you see, we know they're together now, and can imagine a future for them without you telling the reader. Very good!

  5. Celia, you always make me think with your posts! This is no exception. SO many great endings and last lines. You know when I think of "DUD" endings, there's a movie that always comes to mind: Sommersby. with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster. At the end of that movie, I cried from sheer anger--mad at the ending, mad at the writers, and mad at myself for having watched it.

    This is what I think of as one of those endings that leave us hanging, though we can't quite put our finger on "why"'s from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, my favorite novel ever: "[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning." So it's saying that Atticus will be there for his kids, always, but ...then what? The world is still uncertain. To me, Atticus is the steady force in the world--in that book, for his kids, for the town--but he won't be there forever. So maybe times will change while he is there...but will they change enough?

    For a happy ending...gosh, there are so many? How to choose. In romance, I always like to have a HEA ending for the story. I just need to know that they're okay, after all they've gone through.

    Great post!

    1. I like to know "that they're okay, too."...whatever it might be. I don't care to look very far down the road and tell the reader that they'll do this and they'll do that. We need a little mystery.
      Sommersby--is that the movie--made twice, I believe--where a man comes home to a village to his wife, but she's not sure he's really her husband? I need to google this.
      Thanks for your thoughts--

  6. Just as much as I enjoy a good beginning, I yearn for a satisfying end--something that makes me glad I chose this particular book. An ending that, makes me reminisce about the story long after I've finished it. Now that's a good story when I can't get it off my mind.
    Now of course, I'm anxious about my endings. LOL You have brought our attention to an important part of our writing skills, Celia. I love when you do this, when you help us rediscover ourselves through our writing.
    I always enjoy reading your stories, and I would never miss one of your blogs. They are interesting, informative, and give us insight into the wonderful human being you are.
    I'm trying to think of a book without an HEA, but a satisfying ending. It would have to be Sir Author Canon Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures. Although I like science fiction, fantasy and adventure stories, my favorite stories are still romance. They don't have to end in marriage, but I like to think that's just down the road for them.
    Loved your post, Celia.

    1. Exactly. I don't care if they end in marriage, but you know the die-hard romance publishers must have this. So, it's nice to have some leeway with the ending. I, too, love to think about a good book when I've finished. I read so many now, I fear I'm reading some that don't fit the bill, and I wish I'd spent my time on something else. But that the value of a good ending--it will keep the story in your head for a while.
      I read a book years ago, and I still remember it because the ending was so depressing. It was Irish, about a young lady meeting an old woman who had a valuable horse, and the girl moved in to care for the lady and the horse...wish I could recall the title, but I assure you, nothing happy happened at the end. I remember being put out...but..I do remember the story! So, there you go.
      Thanks for your sweet compliments. I savor every word.

    2. Oh my gosh, Celia, I did have to chuckle when you said you read a depressing Irish story. Lord knows I've read a bunch of Irish tales, and haven't found but one that ended with something happy. The thing about Irish stories is they are profound (not just saying that because I'm Scot-Irish) and speak to the heart. They'll stay with you a long time--whether you want them to or not. LOL

    3. Sarah--that's it. The Irish tell profound stories that speak to the heart. In this book, the young woman, I was sure, would out with something wonderful, but she did not.

  7. Your posts are always so thought provoking, Celia. I like the loose ends tied up, or at least pointing me to the next book. Danglers annoy me to no end, and I refuse to read a book with a cliffhanger. I read the first in a fantasy series that had so much worldbuilding, I had to make a chart--but I did that because the world was so fascinating. Finally, some action happened and then... the book ended as the protag jumped off a cliff. He was mid-air and hadn't even got to the surface of the river yet. After all that work to get through that book (prologue, actually), it genuinely annoyed me that there was no ending. Complete waste of my time. No, I will not read the next book--or any other book by that author--which is too bad because he showed a lot of promise and creativity.

    Here's the ending line of Much Ado About Miners:
    “Me, too. Exhausted.” Kade swept her in his arms. “Wave good-bye, princess.”

    I'm hoping readers will see the disconnect between "exhausted" and "swept her in his arms." Hahaha.

    1. Oh. I see. That ending is good...thought provoking!

  8. No, I don't read a book with danglers, either. I've not seen many, but have run across a few. And worldbuilding...can't take that very long, either.
    The guy just jumped off the cliff and that was The End? Yikes. No way.
    I'd mark that one off for sure.

  9. Hi, Celia. I like a satisfying ending, too, or at least satisfying to that world. I know many readers were upset with Mockingjay's ending because it was a HEA, not even a promise of one, but the book ended the way it should.

    1. Keena--That's it..I've read several time. End the book when it ends. When it's over, it's over. I have too many books in which the ending is dragged out--satisfying or not. Thanks for checking in.

  10. Celia,
    You never disappoint with your thought-provoking posts!

    I love a HEA and here is my ending from WHEN LOVE HAPPENS AGAIN (previously published with Samhain), an inspirational romance:
    Katherine slept on her daddy's shoulder, looking like a little angel. He softly walked across the floor to his wife's side and gave her a gentle kiss. "This is better than any dream I ever had." I cheated and gave more than the last line. :)