You lost me at the ending.

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.

I know, Marshall, I really do.

Others that left me rather underwhelmed, despite my initial excitement about them such as Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel.

bored gif

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.

surprised

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.

throwing-book

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Refrain from killing any character (especially the main character) needlessly or to simply include a shock factor at the end of the book.
  3. Account for most, if not all characters (even secondaries need resolution!).
  4. 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? 

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28 thoughts on “You lost me at the ending.

  1. I used to always finish too, but now i dont bother anymore, just not worth it.
    As for endings – i think its the toughest thing to do well. But i also hate bad endings and theres nothing worse than a bad one after 250 good pages.

    • It seems more and more people are leaning towards that direction now, but the masochist in me is not relenting!
      Oh god yes. Try books with 700+ pages! >_<

      • Another thing that is creeping into books perhaps is the ‘lets leave it open for a sequel’ ending which Hollywood does now with every film meaning theres never a true resolution which cheapens it and means theres weak ambiguous endings.

        • Ahhh yes. You know, I struggle to find books that do not have sequels these days. =[ Is it too much to ask to read a book and know that it ends once I turn the final page?

  2. Totally with you. A good ending can redeem (at least in part) a bad book, and a bad ending can tarnish a good one. Good endings leave an imprint of sorts and, like you said, answer most of the questions. A few questions are good, but not an entire story’s worth.

    • Yeah, I like a little ambiguity or things that leave things up to interpretation, but it’s not okay when the author doesn’t answer the important questions!

    • Agreed. You can actually tell when the author forces the ending; the incompatibility with the rest of the story shines through. And I know what you mean about it being difficult. =[

  3. One of the most memorable endings I’ve ever read was the ending of “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. It was both heartbreaking and shocking, and in being so, it was a great ending. I also loved the ending of “Midwives” by Chris Bohjalian. These two happen to be two of my favorite books, so maybe you’re right–it’s the ending that helps determine a book’s likability. 🙂

    • I just added A Fine Balance to my to-read list! Sounds like my type of book. 😀 And yes, some of my favourite books are those with endings that have completely stuck with me.

  4. I always try my best yo finish all the books I pick up. But there was this one where I found out the ending and didn’t like it (I sometimes have a habit of flipping to the end of the book) and no longer had to motivation to read it.
    Yes endings are highly important for me. I agree with you. It also decides how much I love or dislike it overall.
    Though there are rare times I gave up on a book just because it was too boring for me or I just wasn’t in the mood.

    • I’m curious – which book was that? I’m always tempted to flip back to the end of the book, especially if it’s a book I’m really dying to know how it ends, and it takes all my will power to resist doing so, haha.

      I’ve set books aside because I wasn’t in the mood for them, but I always go back to them eventually. Maybe you just have to find the right time. 🙂

      • It was The Darkest Minds. I didn’t really like how it turned out. I’m a sucker for happy ending. Though technically the ending wasn’t sad, it wasn’t exactly called ‘happy’ either. Either way I found the ending unsatisfying. When I’ve run out of books to read or I feel like it, I might go back to it, but that won’t be for a while.

        Hmm yes, for Falling Kingdoms, I managed to go through it. But I literally skipped chapters to read the more interesting parts? I think books that drags on too slow isn’t to my liking either. I guess I’m still exploring. =)

        • I just looked it up. I think I may check it out… I like a happy ending as much as the next person, but sometimes a sad/bittersweet one is right up my alley too. 😉

          I’ve done that too with Magician by Raymond Feist and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. There were so many parts and I was just dying to finish!

  5. I just recently finished the Wheel of Time series; I was fairly satisfied with the ending there (mainly because I’d FINALLY reached it after fourteen books). Along that same vein, though, the Lord of the Rings ending is one of my favorites. Very nice and hobbit-like. I’m with you in that I usually try to finish books; I think “Dune” is one of the few novels I started but never finished. I suppose I should remedy that someday…

    • I keep hearing about the Wheel of Times series, but the idea of going through 14 books sounds very daunting. Is it worth it? I agree with you about the LotR ending; it really wraps things up nicely. 🙂

      About Dune, it seems to me that many stop reading it because of its sheer size. Was that the case here too? xD

      • That was pretty much it; I was in college at the time when I started Dune, and I had checked it out as a library book. I quickly realized I did not have the time to read it before it was due. Maybe someday…
        As for the Wheel of Time, I found what my friends told me was true: the beginning is very good, the end is very good, but the middle does drag a bit. There might be a hundred pages where a character takes a bath and discusses politics, and that’s it. In any event, it was worth it for me, because there are some really good scenes in the end, but it does take a while.

        • I marvel at King’s ability to produce such long books in such short bursts of time. Though I suppose having writing as your career does help things.
          From your description, I’m strongly reminded of the Game of Thrones, one series I’m particularly keen on avoiding right now. >.>

  6. I find endings really difficult to write and like you, I will wait until the ‘perfect ending’ comes to me. The most disappointing and ridiculous ending (that I remember at the moment) was Steven King’s IT. A giant spider appears out of the blue and eats them all? What the hell? The best ending is another King story, Shawshank Redemption – the ending was brilliant 😀

    • Good to hear I’m not alone in this! And oh my, that does sound indeed ridiculous. Kinda like The Mill on the Floss where a flood comes and drowns the main characters, haha. I haven’t read many King books, but it seems like his endings are either a hit or miss!

  7. I agree. I recently read Paper Towns which I really enjoyed until the end. I don’t really know what kind of ending I expected but that wasn’t it. And I really enjoyed the plot developments and fell in love with the characters. It made me wonder if maybe it’s about the journey, not the destination. I felt bad for not liking the ending and wondered if I didn’t want the book to end, maybe I was never going to be happy with the ending?

    • I’m glad you didn’t reveal the ending of that because I have it on my shelves right now and I have yet to read it, though now I feel apprehensive! I’ve noticed, with John Green’s books, is that he tends to focus on the journey a great deal. I guess sometimes that kind of technique works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

  8. Dude, endings are so important! I agree that so many seem like afterthoughts. Why? Why would you put all of that energy into a novel, then tack on a lackluster ending? I often find myself leery as I’m approaching the end of a story, and I’m ashamed to say, but I usually rush through it because it’s rarely good. In fact, I can’t even think of any right now off the top of my head.

    I like to write endings that are half resolved, half open-ended for the reader to use their imagination and intellect a bit. And I hope to leave them with an emotional hangover. : )

    • I think I know what you mean about being leery towards the end… not many books seem to get it right. Looking at my books now, I can only count a few with endings that have left me with a breathless, “wow” feeling.

      I like those endings! Much as I want authors to answer important questions, I also don’t like it when they basically spoon-feed me everything. It’s just tricky to achieve a happy medium between those two things. 🙂

  9. Endings must be tough to write. Even if I like the ending of a book, especially if I like the ending of a book, I’m disappointed because the story has ended. The author can’t win, haha! I often reread the first chapter or first few pages of a book when I finish a book. It’s a way to stay with a good book, to revisit the introduction of the characters.

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