Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Ending

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, since my blog about first chapters went over so well last week, I thought I would talk about the ending of a book this week.

How do you know when to end your book?

That is a dilemma that every writer faces. Do you end it on a cliffhanger? Do you end it in a nice little bow? Happy ending? Sad ending? What is best for your novel?

As a reader, I enjoy happy endings with all the loose ends tied up. And as a writer, I tend to do this in my writing. However, in my book All’s Fair, the editor chopped off my tied up loose ends, which left the ending quite open-ended. At the time, I just nodded my head and let them do it, but part of me was sad to let the ending I really wanted go into the cut file. And when I started doing book signings and PR for that book, I was really sad I’d let that go into the cut file because so many people said they felt dissatisfied with such an ending and wanted more. Of course it was easy to put the “deleted scene,” on my website and direct people there who wanted more of an ending, and those people who liked open-ended endings could be satisfied with what had made it into the book, but what sort of ending is best is definitely a fine line to walk as an author.

I once spoke to a national author who said they always wrapped up the original storyline, but subtly introduced a new storyline into the story and left that one open at the end so it would pave the way for her next book. So she walked the fine line of giving closure, but still have something open, which I liked and am sort of leaning toward in my next novels.

Lois Lowry once was quoted about ending a book and in my opinion, sort of thought the same thing as my national author friend. She said:

Is there a rule that one can follow? Probably not. But there is, I think, a test against which the writer can measure his ending, his stopping place. When something more is going to take place, but the characters have been so fully drawn, and the preceding events so carefully shaped that the reader, on reflection, knows what more will happen, and is satisfied by it — then the book ends.”

So you can still have more that could happen, but when your characters have fulfilled your readers’ expectation and are satisfied, then that’s when you’ve found your ending.

Or, there's always the alternative that if you can't decide on where to end it all, you try the somewhat Shakespearean route and kill off all your characters in the end. It could go something like this:

“Suddenly, without warning, a large gaping hole opened up in the earth and swallowed them all.”

Easy, breezy, and simple. Sort of fun, too. ;)

But no matter where you choose to end your novel, keep in mind that you want to end the book where your characters, your readers, and you as the author will be satisfied that the arc is complete or there is some sort of feeling of closure. As Jeff Savage can attest to, you don’t want to leave a cliffhanger for long or the mobs will start to combine against you to get the next book out.

Besides, it is very creatively satisfying to sit back and really enjoy typing these words on your masterpiece:



At 4/15/2010 9:23 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

I've heard that your beginning sells the book and the ending sells your next book. I don't mind cliffhanger endings if they're plausible/authentic. It's when stuff comes together too quickly or not enough or even awkwardly that I have issues. I hope I'm able to pull it off in my own writing!

At 4/15/2010 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.T. That's a great way to look at it, and you're such a talented writer I have no doubt that you will be able to do that in your writing.

Thanks for the comment!


At 4/15/2010 11:09 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I love it when a book ends a little open. If it's a good read I will think about it for days and even day dream a bit about what could happen next. So definitely leave some parts open for individual interpretation. But don't leave our mouths gapping, a big "Huh? That can't be the end!" flying from our lips. Being disappointed like that makes me wish I had never picked up the book.

At 4/16/2010 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When all the plots have been resolved the book is over. That was easy.

You can resolve your plots in a straight forward order or in reverse order. If you have a lot of plots, you will likely have to number them to keep track of them.

Present ten plots and then at the halfway point or the two thirds point of your novel, depending on what genre your writing in, you begin to resolve your plots. You can resolve plot one first, then two, then three in a straight forward or what they call linear order or you can resolve them in a reverse order presenting the plots in a 1 through 10 sequence and then resolving them in a 10 through 1 order--the first plot introduced in your novel ends up being the last one resolved and the last plot introduced becomes the first one resolved.

Your readers will likely never pick up on the carefully crafted and organized introduction and resolution pattern, but it will, at a subconsious level add a certain amount of internal consistency that will make reading your novel that much more enjoyable for the reader.

And once you've resolved all your plots, you can afely conclude that you've reached the end of your novel.

There are, of course, a few little tricksy things you can do like add in a cliff hanger, or even leave a plot line partially unresolved for whatever special purpose you have in mind, but for the most part, finding your ENDING is really the nuts and bolts work of resolving your plots.

It may sound a little mechanical and journeyman-ish to carefully present and then resolve your plots in a pre-determined pattern (I usually do that during the rewriting and self editing portion of the work in progress), but then writing novels is not the romantic craft you may have dreamed it to be. Its hard work, and internal consistency in presentation and resolution is part of that work.

Or you could just write a story helter skelter and let the plots line fall where they may.

Happy endings to all!

At 4/16/2010 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also find that if I'm having any difficulty creating scenes during the drafting process, that taking out a pencil and paper, and sequencing the presentation and resolution of plots helps me find all sorts of chapters that are essentially MISSING which then focuses my mind on those "missing" chapters" and the creative process is nudged along and I'm on my way again.

And though presentation and resolution organization isn't really a brainstorming sort of activity, it ends up showing you where the chapters you have yet to create may find a chronological home amid the many chapters of your novel and it just may break the ice when the inventiveness feels a little cold.

At 4/16/2010 1:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, I totally agree! I'm definitely not a fan of cliffhangers or endings that make me say I can't believe that was the end.

Anon, good to see you back again.



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