I always read books to the end, regardless of how much I dislike them or feel bored by them. I have two reasons for this: a) Leaving a book unfinished makes me uncomfortable. It will always remain at the back of mind, reminding me of my incompetence, telling me that I’ve failed; and b) I always give the book a chance to redeem itself with a fabulous ending. Yes, that doesn’t work all the time, and true, it might not make me love the book, but it will probably matter when it comes to rating.
Endings always determine how much I love the book. Or how much I hate it. I feel that some authors put so much emphasis on the plot and character development – which is not a bad thing on its own – and end up writing the ending as an afterthought, using it as a way to simply wrap things up without really making sure that it is up to par with the rest of the book or trying to make it as satisfactory as possible. Incidentally, it was not a book that had me thinking about this today, but rather a movie, “Lucy” to be exact. The movie was very interesting and gripping all throughout, but the ending… I was seriously underwhelmed. Instead of leaving the theatre feeling happy, my mind buzzing with what I’d watched, I felt quite disappointed, and my mind quickly shelved it under “Seen, Not Worth it”.
That’s not to say that I haven’t read books with such kind of endings. There were endings that I completely fell in love with like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
Others that left me rather underwhelmed, despite my initial excitement about them such as Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel.
Ones that started out rather dull but ended up being so pleasantly surprising and awesome I had to give them five stars such as The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.
And of course there were the ones that made me want to hurl them across the room, and I did do that with The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.
I don’t get it. I just don’t get why someone would go through the trouble of writing a book only to not give it a worthy ending. I understand that sometimes an author has contractual obligations, but under no condition should cop-out endings be okay. It is not fair to the reader who paid money for the book and invested a lot of emotion in it, and it’s not fair to the book itself. There are four things an ending needs to do:
- Resolve the main conflict, whether to the advantage or disadvantage of the main character is up to the writer, as long as it’s realistic.
- Refrain from killing any character (especially the main character) needlessly or to simply include a shock factor at the end of the book.
- Account for most, if not all characters (even secondaries need resolution!).
- Answer most, if not all questions. Nobody likes a plot hole. Of course this only applies to standalones or final books in a series.
I wrote 90% of my upcoming novel, The Muse Bunny in two months. I wrote the ending after five years. Endings are always difficult for me to write, but things were so bad with this one. I was so at loss, not knowing how to do my characters justice, that I simply could not think of the proper way to end it. I preferred to keep it waiting on my hard drive, collecting dust, occasionally picking it up and reading through it for inspiration, rather than give it an ending I personally did not feel satisfied with.
I don’t want readers to say it was rushed. I don’t want them to say it was unreasonable. And I certainly do not want them to say it was underwhelming or unsatisfactory in any way. I want them to say it was worth the ride.
How important are endings to you? If you’re a writer, how difficult it is for you to write them? Without any spoilers, what endings did you particularly love? Which ones did you hate?