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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ENDINGS ARE IMPORTANT, TOO

BY: CELIA YEARY
Note: Lorelei-Book II of the Trinity Hill Brides has been a big seller. Great, huh? After all, aren't we in this business to make money? Well, not always. Satisfaction is often our reward.
But the ending of this story disappointed some readers and they didn't mind telling me about it, either. Me? I thought the ending was clever--but too many readers didn't get that part as I saw it. (Lesson Learned.)
One year, I began keeping a list of every book I read--or tried to. For my own private notes, I used 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.
Maybe ten have a Check Mark 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, anticipating the next scene. And…I remember how they ended.
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 in full.  2.  To make happy. 3. To convince 4. To meet 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.
What was the last book you read that did not have a perfect HEA, but you liked it anyway?
What is the best kind of ending for you to recommend a book?
Note: I'm sure I spend more time in the ending of the story than the beginning. I can never seem to end the story to my great expectations. Maybe I  expect too much? Perhaps a simple ending is best instead of one that continues to explain. The ending to Gone With the Wind is best for that book. But would it suffice for some other story?
If you are an author, how do you feel about endings of stories?
Celia Yeary...Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

21 comments:

  1. I agree with your observations re endings. Endings to me are harder than beginnings. That last line - so tricky!
    I hate endings that feel rushed. Or in a romance where the couple have bickered all the way through and then are suddenly 'loved up'. I like a sense of going forward, of futures.

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    1. Lindsay. We do share one thought..and that is where the couple suddenly stops bickering and makes love. It's too contrived..and we know the road won't be that easy. But that kind of ending makes you think so.
      Thanks for your comment!

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  2. I agree with your opinion-- endings matter a lot to me. I try hard to make sure the books end where they should, and I don't drag them out. That said, I was surprised at one criticism of a book of mine that the reader felt the ending had been rushed. This is a long book, with what I considered to be two endings with an epilogue. I did wonder what that reader had hoped would be at the end. Of course, I couldn't ask. Maybe she wanted one last romantic clinch but they had had that earlier before that second ending. Sadly, I won't ever know.

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    1. Rain--sometimes I think reviewers just like how they sound-and one I see most often is that the author "rushed" the ending. And yet I've not seen any suggestions on how they'd like us to do that.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I often learn more from comments that what I wrote in the first place.

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  3. Endings are vitally important to a story for all the reasons you gave plus they give the reader a glimpse into the future of characters they've come to care about (we hope).

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    1. Exactly, Tracy. That's why a love clinch etc. won't work. We need to know a tiny bit more for us to imagine how their lives will be in the future.

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  4. I have to admit I am one of those authors who actually writes the ending first. Weird, I know, but it really has worked well for me. (I also don't do outlines.) Sometimes, the ending IS the story, and once I know how a book is going to end, it's just the task of getting the story there. For the most part, my endings have some kind of message or moral. Does anyone else approach writing this way? Because, unlike our own lives, we do have a say in how our characters resolve a problem or come to a solution.

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    1. Kit,

      I always know how my stories end before I write them, too. I don't make outlines, either. I write in scenes and weave them together as the story unfolds.

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    2. Kit--I don't think I know anyone who writes the ending first..maybe Cheryl..she has multiples way of writing!...No outlines here, either. I can barely make notes. I do use a Time Line though..what came first..this or that? Save a lot of confusion on my part.
      Thanks.

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  5. Celia,

    The last book I read that didn't have a HEA per se, but I enjoyed it anyway was "Hannibal" (sequel to Silence of the Lambs). The author caught a lot of criticism for the ending of the book, but it worked for me. I was satisfied.

    I need a satisfying ending to a book, which is why I always read the ending of a book first. I do the same with movies. I won't devote the time to read a book or watch the movie only to arrive at the ending unfulfilled / incomplete / disappointed...etc. I don't like surprises, so I have no trouble with "spoilers". I read (or watch) for the enjoyment of how the story is crafted and how it unfolds, not for the anticipation of how it ends. I read favorite books many times, and the same with watching movies, because I enjoy the story, not because of the endings. (hope that made some sort of sense)

    As an example, I stopped reading the Harry Potter books with the fourth book, because I feared (realized?) that the author was going to kill-off Harry to rid the world of Voldemort. I didn't see any other way around it. Their characters were two deeply enmeshed with each other. I wasn't willing to invest emotionally in Harry just to lose him in the final book.

    The best kind of ending for me to recommend a book is a storyline in which all of the threads come together by the end. Agatha Christie does this so well with her mysteries.

    I agree that the ending of 'Gone with the Wind' is perfect for that book. There's an interpretation for the pessimist, the optimist, and the realist. *grin*

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    1. Kaye--true..the ending to GWTW is pure genius..and just think, MM came up with it.
      Your comment is interesting..it gives me something more to think about.
      Thank you for commenting.

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  6. I also agree that if the ending doesn't complete all the circles the author opened, it isn't a satisfactory ending. I never know how a book will end, but by the time I've got 90,000 words written, I would hope I would know how to end it correctly. I seriously do not have much time to read right now, but the stories I read for the most part have that perfect HEA.

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  7. Same here. I agree. I'm reading too much and not writing enough!

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  8. I think I most happy when the ending fits the story. One of my favorite books was "Calico Palace" by Gwen Bristow. The ending fit the story. I remember reading it, along with "Tea with the Black Dragon" and both stayed with me long after I finished them. Of course these were over 30 years ago, but I've never forgotten them.

    I did enjoy the post and it has me thinking as I work on my writing. Some points I need to consider. Doris

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    1. Thanks for your observations and comments--well thought out. I have all of LaVyrle Spencer's books saved in paperback form. I still read one of those occasionally,to relive the romance, yes, but also to remember not all writing rules need to be followed all the time. Good plots, and very good endings..but her best is Good Beginnings.

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  9. I have thought about this blog and what you had to say about endings for quite sometime before I came back to answer it with my own thoughts on endings.
    Endings are where the author gets a chance to bring the story, not only a satisfying end, but to a meaningful one as well. As a romance writer I feel compelled to bring my hero and heroine to a happy ending that either has them declare their eternal love in a wedding, or the promise of that most happy ending. Regardless of my desire for a romantically satisfying end, what I really feel strongly about is the hardest thing to do--end the story with something even more meaningful, a life-confirming reason for the story since the beginning. Admittedly, I don't often feel I have achieved this meaningful end, but I certainly do give it my all.
    The last story I read was "Pest House" by Clay More. It ended in a bit of a cliff hanger like the way Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty had that fight in Sir Author Canon Doyle's classic tale--no bodies were ever found which begs the question, "Are they alive?". An ending like that says to me "there's more." That's an okay ending as long as the author fulfills the promise of another story.
    I read Kit's comment about writing the ending first. I actually see where that would work. I am a plotter/planner. I write my synopsis first from beginning to end before I write the story. I will say though, that sometimes in the middle of writing the story I have had epiphanies and tweaked up my story plan. I start with a theme, usually one line that says what this story is about. I have never written the ending first, but I am going to consider it.
    This was an interesting blog and certainly thought provoking, Celia.

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    1. I thought to check back once more to see if I had any more comments. Oh, and I am so glad I did. I wouldn't have wanted to miss your message. As usual, you give me more to think of than I thought myself.
      I always want the ending to hold a promise of a fulfilling life together.
      Who knows what might go wrong? I've thought about a story line in which the HEA happens early on, and then...bam...it all falls apart. That would be hard to do for me...but I'm sure you could.
      THanks for sharing. Celia

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    2. Celia, I just did it in my book, "It's Only Make Believe", is under contract with Fire Star Press, but has not released yet. The wedding has just taken place at the opening of the story, but it all goes south on their wedding night. (Kit Wilding, one of Banjo's sons, and June Wingate, the school teacher are the two lead characters.)

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  10. I'm struggling with an ending right now where it's not the HEA but you can see the HEA from where the story ends. Not only does the last line need to be right but the tone of the whole last few pages need to work, too. Tough. Tough. Tough. Great blog, Celia. Much fodder for thought.

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    1. That's different--but you can do it. I'll be interested in seeing it.

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