Monday, January 5, 2009

Is this the end ... or a new beginning?

Endings are great. I love writing endings, and I love reading a great ending. Plotting an ending is downright fun ... it's all payoff. All those strands I've been weaving since the first word finally come together. It's like I'm knitting a shirt, but the reader doesn't really know that until I'm done and lift it up as a whole. "Ah, it's a shirt!" 

So then why do I botch endings so frequently?

On my two most recent books, I was very proud of both endings at first, but it turned out I whiffed them both. On one book, I ended it too soon. There was more to tell in the story, another page to turn. I had to go further to show how the events of the story really affected my main character. In the other, I was in a rush, so I pushed through, hit a dramatic scene, and typed "The End." It was anticlimactic.

What makes a great ending? I think maybe it's the sense that it's not an ending at all, but a new beginning. And this time, the character isn't encumbered by the conflict that was presented in the opening pages of the story. Sure, new conflicts might arise (sequels, perhaps), but rather than looking back over the bones of that story, the ending finds the character looking forward to a life free from the burden imposed by the original conflict. Hopefully wiser for what they've seen and done.

So I'm reworking an ending right now, and I'm trying to keep this in mind. But input is welcome ... what makes a great ending? How do you know when it's the right time to type "The End"?


Erica Orloff said...

I think a great ending is one that resonates. It satisfies all the emotional cues and clues I'd been giving the characters as they grow throughout the novel.


Jude Hardin said...

If tears are streaming down your cheeks as you're writing, it's a pretty good indication that you've nailed it.

lainey bancroft said...

Huh. I just popped into comments in hope of 'the ultimate answer.'

No real go, I guess.

I agree with both Erica and Jude. But have to add, in reading, the ultimate ending for me is always the one I 'sorta' see coming so I start reading slower because I don't want that book, or my relationship with those characters to end!

LurkerMonkey said...


I hadn't thought of that, but by jove, you're right ... the perfect ending is when you're afraid the book will end to soon. And by default, that must mean an ending that resonates and possibly causes tears to stream ...

spyscribbler said...

A great ending? One that, when I'm done, makes me hold the book to my chest for about five minutes with a smile on my face. Satisfying, I guess.

Amy Nathan said...

I think a good ending is one that doesn't leave anything dangling, yet leaves much to the imagination.