Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Happily (N)Ever After March 10, 2011

Filed under: Books,Writing — katblogger @ 4:12 PM
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We all have that book. The one that made us crazy. The one we literally picked up and threw against the wall. The one we stared at for like, ten minutes straight, thinking ‘Is that really the end?’

And then that book. The one with the ending that stuck in our minds for days. The one we kept picking up, flipping to the end, and rereading, just for those last few lines.

Endings are important. They’re the last thing you see of a book or short story. So when someone totally botches it, *coughBreakingDawncough*, it sticks with you. No matter how the rest of the book was, the ending is what leaves the last taste in your mouth. So don’t screw it up.

However, it’s impossible to please everyone. There are three main camps of endings and ending lovers.

1. Happily ever after. This is the easy way out, and many authors take it. They tie every loose end up in a nice neat little bow, have everyone stay alive, get married, etc. Everything is perfect. Excuse me while I gag.

When I see this kind of thing, I think, ‘Don’t patronize me’. In this world, things aren’t perfect. Everything doesn’t end up dandy in the end. I’m not saying everyone has to have Pyrrhic victories, but some realism wouldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, many people are suckers for the happy ending, and get upset if they don’t get one. It’s a tightrope you have to walk.

2. Open ending. This is my favorite kind to write, although it’s pretty maddening to read. Some people might say it’s cheating if the author leaves a story somewhere, without saying what happens after. But personally, I think it’s nice. You can let the reader decide. Life can go in all sorts of crazy directions. Also, sometimes I know that there are too many ways I’d like to finish something, so it’s best if I stop while I’m ahead. Or maybe it would just get old if I kept dragging it along. It’s a common problem when writers keep pulling a story along after it’s done. In my opinion, you should stop while fans still want more. If people are like, “Ok, we’re totally done with this,” you’ve got a problem.

3. Tragedy. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes a book needs a good dose of tragedy. It’s the slow collapse into destruction that’s the whole point. But when authors just end it in a horribly depressing way so it’s more in line with ‘classics’, that’s when loyal readers get pissed.

And, to admit it, there are some characters I’m really attached too. And if they died, I would be super upset.

To clarify, I’m not talking about a few deaths. Thanks to my youthful (and looking back on it, rather questionable) indoctrination to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s my belief that every good finale should have a death or two. Or at least some maiming. But when the kill count hits the double digits, it gets old fast. Of course, I have a friend who takes a savage pleasure in killing off her characters, so I guess we all have different tastes.

Everyone has their favorite ending to write, and their favorite one to read. Care to share?



3 Responses to “Happily (N)Ever After”

  1. Laney Says:

    I actually like the open ending as well. It’s more satifying to write but you’re right, it’s not a crowd pleaser. At the end of the day though, the story needs to lead the author to the end, wherever that may be. Great post.

  2. Kristin Says:

    Hey…it wasn’t indoctrination. And we didn’t let you watch the bad parts until you were older.

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