Monday, August 26, 2013

The Ending – Good or Bad?

The ending is one of the most important parts of your story because it leaves the reader either wanting more of your fiction, or deciding to avoid it in the future. So an easy answer to the question of what makes a good ending is that it leaves the reader satisfied. There are several types of endings that don't do that:
  • The solution to the mystery comes as a total surprise at the end because it has not been foreshadowed. I recently reviewed a book like that A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths. The setting was interesting, but the main character raced about wringing her hands and in the end had nothing to do with the solution which involved characters with a very minor role in the story.
  • The ending doesn't resolve the issue. In How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman the second half of the story builds up tension about whether Marta is the victim of a plot, or mad. Unfortunately, the ending keeps us guessing.
  • The ending is obvious from the beginning. In some ways this is less serious than the other two problems because sometimes you read a book, particularly a romance, knowing the lovers will get together, but it's an attractive setting, you like the characters and it's good escapist literature.

I have found several things that make a good ending. One is a twist at the end that leaves the reader saying “Why didn't I see that?” This only works if the information is there but cleverly disguised so that it comes as a surprise, but the reader doesn't feel cheated because they could have guessed. A good ending is also one where the characters show some growth, or understanding of the condition of their lives. I enjoy a book where I feel that the characters are going on with a better chance for happiness then they had before the story began.

So endings shouldn't be cop-outs, or shocks. The ending should be a resolution that pulls the threads together and leaves the reader feeling satisfied. It's a laudable goal, but not as easy as it seems from all the bad endings I've seen in the books I review. Still, it's worth trying for.

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