E is for endings

Sin# 4: Get em’ wet then leave em’ dripping

A really bad ending can turn a great book into a disaster. In my opinion it’s one of the worst of all of my twenty-five deadly sins of writing. I can’t stand it when a book has a terrible ending!

There are several types of ‘bad’ ending:

Deus ex machina – See yesterdays post

A-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-d-d end – The action builds and builds, the tension becomes unbearable, the MC gets thrown around and stamped down and….END. He suddenly pulls a gun out and shoots the bad guy…FIN. I’ve read a few books like this (more than I care to count AND some from authors I really admire) and it really grinds my gears when a book builds up a conflict until it seems almost impossible to overcome and then GUN. BANG. END. It’s uber anticlimactic.

Jeff wouldn’t do that! – This ending pops up a lot, a character is established and they follow through the entire story acting just like Jeff. Aww, I like Jeff. In fact I’ve learned to really like him over the course of this nov…Jeff? Jeff! What are you doing!? PUT THE MONKEY DOWN, JEFF!!! Yeah, that type of ending. One where the MC will take an uncharacteristic turn just so the author can bring the plot to an end. It’s lazy and it can turn a great book into one you wouldn’t prop up your wonky table with.

Why are there no more pages? – The type of ending that has you flipping over the book and searching for hidden works on the back page…just in case the novel does actually end somewhere in the hidden depths of the cover or dust jacket or spine! Nope, it doesn’t. It just abruptly ends without resolving anything. Very frustrating and unless your writing a sequel it’s a big no-no. Even with sequels there must be enough resolution in order to satisfy the reader.

Get on with it already! – The ending that came five chapters ago…zzzzzz. A book resolves the main conflict; the MC walks off into the sunset with the girl, the monkey, the cybernetic organism that can only communicate through scrabble tiles…whatever floats your boat. BUT then you check ahead and realise there are seventy odd pages left – WTF? Maybe it’s a teaser for the authors next boo…ooh no it’s a lot of crap that nobody cares about. The author seems to be tying up every single minute loose thread that cropped up during the storyline….zzzz. Very, very boring.

The one thing  that all of the above endings have in common is the fact that they can turn an enjoyable story into a steaming pile of crap…not actually flipping back and scribbling over the good bits but completely overshadowing any happy memories of the book and ruining any chance of recommending it to somebody else.

Always, always, always try and make your ending as logical, concise and satisfying as possible. Endings are just as important, if not more so, as the beginning and the middle of your book!


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    • Susie on April 6, 2011 at 19:29
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    Loving the A-Z. Not only informative but entertaining and amusing. Great stuff.

    • ttofee on April 6, 2011 at 19:57
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    I have read many books which commit this sin! It's no fun to feel you have spent the time reading something only to be left unsatisfied! Of course, we would never commit this sin 🙂

    • Sue H on April 6, 2011 at 20:02
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    So true! But sometimes when I get to the final stages it's so hard to just close the story and there's a dreadful temptation to tweak a bit more…..and a bit more…..

    I have to tell myself that the reader has ALL the information they need to know and doesn't need to be spoon-fed!

    (Good post – great series, this, btw!)


    • Rachel on April 6, 2011 at 22:58
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    THANK YOU! I couldn't agree more!
    I just threw a "bad ending" fit a couple of months ago, over a book that I invested a good twenty or more hours in reading. I'm not sure if it was a bestseller, but it certainly was well-known. I was so excited to read it, and it didn't disappoint me, until the last twenty-five minutes, when it crashed and burned. It was as if the author just gave up!
    Thanks for the great post. I'm glad to be following through the A to Z challenge.

    • Sylvia Ney on April 7, 2011 at 01:29
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    I also wrote about endings. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to reading more from you.

    • Melissa Bradley on April 7, 2011 at 04:01
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    I feel you on these endings. They are frustrating to no end. I just finished one where there should be more pages. I wanted to burn the book when I got to the last page and the main plot along major points of the main plot were not resolved. There was nothing, but a couple of blank pages and something about the typeset.

    • Steven Chapman on April 7, 2011 at 09:49
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    Cheers for the comments, I will get around to commenting on all of your blogs – I promise! I'm just so busy at the moment… 🙁

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