Two little words, either written or implied, that for me will make or break a novel.
I had no idea what I was going to write about tonight. I’m not sure if it’s the approaching summer heat or general weekend laziness, but my brain was blank. Then as chance would have it, I started chatting with a writer friend of mine about plot structure, and what we look for when reading someone else’s work.
What I discovered? I’m all about the endings.
I will pick up any book and if the characters catch me right away, even if the story is somewhat lacking, I will push through until the final page. I love characterization. If the dialogue is fast-paced and the insight into the characters’ minds goes deeper than that they want for dinner, or their surface reaction to finding a zombie in the kitchen, I will give the book the benefit of the doubt and keep going.
What I will not do is recommend or re-read a book if the ending leaves me wanting.
Now I’m not saying it has to be a happy ending – many of my favourite stories end on a bittersweet note – but it has to at least offer a chance of hope, or an open interpretation, or at least with closure that fits in with the rest of the story and ties up loose ends.
In high school, a friend of mine recommended a trilogy to me and I loved the first books. They blew me away. Three quarters of the third book – same deal. I was on the verge of proclaiming to the world that it was one of the best things I’d ever read. Those last pages? Ugh. I can’t remember the author or the name of the series, but I do remember the giant let down. I remember I was reading on the floor of my bedroom, eyes glued to the page as the story drew to its close. I read the last page…and was so upset I screamed out a “What?!” and nearly threw the book across the room*. It’s a pretty intense reaction towards a book, but probably not the reaction the author wanted.
To me it makes sense for the ending to be the important part. I don’t think anything impacts more on the lasting impression a reader will have. A bad ending is like eating something heavy in garlic for dinner and still tasting it the next day. If he or she sets down your book and you’ve left the reader disappointed (and not in a cliff-hanger ‘What? He stopped THERE?’ kind of way), then it’s most likely that reader will not be in a rush to pick up your next one..
Rule of thumb: shrugs, head scratching, and book throwing (unless this last was the author’s intention) are generally not good reactions to any conclusion.
What’s your deal-breaker with a book?
*No books were harmed in the writing of this post.