The End

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.

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8 comments

  1. Jeepers!! Don’t title a post with those two words! I thought it truly was The End of something. In regards to the end, however, I have been known to read the end if my interest in the middle or beginning is waning. Sometimes, knowing the outcome, especially if it’s a good one, makes me want to know how they got there.

  2. I agree, from a reader’s viewpoint the ending is the most important part in terms of what they will remember. Unless the middle, the journey, is good they won’t read it again though. If the beginning is poor they are unlikely to want to buy it, or finish it. From an author’s viewpoint it all has to be good if you want that reader to become a fan and not a hater.

  3. I’m also totally about the end. Reading a book is a journey and if the destination is a disappointment, the letdown is extreme.

    When I write a novel I begin with the ending. Everything I create afterwards is designed to support that ending, to build to that climax. My subconscious jumps on board and the book unfolds in ways I didn’t expect but which totally support the end. It’s a magical process.

    1. I’ve also started writing at the end. Often the final scene, or even just the last line, will come to me before the rest. Then the job is getting to the end. Sometimes it changes, more often it stays the same.

  4. Likewise, the ending of a story is for me the best part. As a writer, it motivates me to keep on writing to reach the ending where I can truly leave a lasting impact and opinion of the book.
    In the case of a series you build the reader’s expectations, leaving them eager for more. With stand-alones or the ending of a series, you want to leave that lasting affect on the reader, so that they come away and think ‘wow’ for whatever reason. Of course the rest of the story has to be good, but more often than not, the ending stays with people.

  5. A hard one to answer I suppose any book that wraps up within a couple of pages is a deal breaker and killer for me. I hate having things rushed as it feels that its inorganic and a rushed job rather than something thats taken time to craft. Thanks for this post Krista.

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