Avis Thoughts #5
Can endings ruin entire novels?
Note: Writers, please read this to the end and don’t panic over nailing your story ending. Thank you :’)
The ending, it’s the final few pages that will determine the fate of characters you either despised, loved, and/or rooted for. As the readers near the final few pages of the book thoughts begin to swirl and emotions rise as the final fate of the characters is will soon be revealed. Will they live happily ever after? Did the murderer get away? Will they get together? Where’s the treasure hidden? Is there a possibility for a sequel?
Arguably the most anticipated part of the novel, the ending heavily affects whether your reader will enjoy your story and recommend it others, or toss in frustration and then proceed to rate it two and a half stars and rant about it on forums.
People have been known to blow a gasket over endings and the ending can definitely affect how the overall story is received.
Here are some reasons why the ending is so important:
-It’s the last and most recent thing your readers will be read from your novel so it’ll be the freshest thing in your reader’s memory.
-Your book has most likely been building up to the big event at the end so reader anticipation is high.
-It wraps up your story and determines the final fate of your characters, aka. the characters your reader has grown invested in.
-It can determine whether or not your reader will read any other of your books.
What can lead to a “bad ending”?
If nothing substantial happens, it can lead to disappointment, I’d describe this like waiting in a long line for a ride. Imagine waiting hours to board this really thrilling fun ride that’s been advertised nonstop and then when you get on its short, underwhelming, and leaves you twenty bucks down the hole (or however much you paid for that ticket).
On the other hand, if you make the ending too cluttered, with too much going on, it makes it harder for the reader to follow what’s going on and question the events that unfold in those last few paragraphs. It can also make it difficult to process what took place and ruin the narrative flow of the story.
There are many other ways a story can flop at the end, some linked here: 5-things-that-can-kill-your-story but you get the point.
Okay, but how do endings ruin novels?
Well, this is where things get a bit more “abstract” for a lack of a better term.
Bad endings don’t exactly equal a bad novel, in fact, there have many novels with “so-so” endings that are still adored and read to this day.
But with that being said, an ending can affect how people overall see the book and can be the final nail in the coffin for a floundering story.
Now you may be thinking, “but it’s just an ending, I mean if most of the story is good why would such a small section of a book ruin an entire novel?”
A good way I heard to explain this concept is with these two words, “trust and expectations.”
When a person picks up novel it’s usually because they believe said novel will be an entertaining or enjoyable read. So the reader pours hours and hours into reading the story, becoming engrossed with the plot, characters, and lore and unbeknownst to them, they begin to build expectations.
Expectations that the story will have a great ending, and trust that the author knew the best way to end the story. The reader trusts that even if all their questions won’t be answered, or even that their favorite characters may not live till the end, that the ending will at least feel like a proper ending.
So imagine the soul-crushing feeling of making to the end and finding an ending where little thought or care was placed in, and a terrible resolution to everything that was set up before. It’s like the ride analogy I used earlier, all that hype and buildup for over half the story amounting to an underwhelming finish.
This can lead the reader to feel betrayed, I mean all those hours poured into reading, becoming attached to characters and the story only for everything to fall apart at the end. It’s like everything that was read before was a waste of time, or at least wasn’t given a proper send-off. Thus the reader’s view of the overall quality of the story is changed.
A perfect ending doesn’t exist
An ending will never appease everyone who reads a story.
Some people will love the ending of a story while others will think it’s terrible, and that’s okay because taste is subjective. What isn’t okay is for a writer to use that as an excuse to write a lazy ending that will leave a majority of your readers feeling played.
Look, an ending doesn’t have to give your audience exactly what they want, (especially if you have a series, you kinda wanna leave some cliffhangers and loose ends,) but as a writer you do have the responsibility to make an ending that:
-Isn’t a cop-out or lazily written
-Pulls any cheap tricks like a twist that makes no sense or a new character introduction in the literal last few pages.
-Feels in tune with the rest of the story and seems like a natural outcome.
-Resolves character arcs and/or conflicts in at least a few aspects.
With that being said, if you’re a writer freaking out about nailing a perfect ending that’ll appease everyone, chill.
No story is perfect and they’ll always be people who’ll gripe or moan about how things aren’t exactly as they want, even if the ending is great and meets the points listed above, it’s just a simple reality.
Now, there’s no perfect sure-fire formula that’ll make sure your ending is flawless or will make most of your readers happy, but there are ways to make sure you end your story properly, including some I listed here: quick-tips-how-to-properly-end-a-novel/
In the end, I’m a firm believer that endings have to deliver what was being built up and have to have a lot of care put into them. To me, there are few things more disappointing for a novel than to read one with a solid plot, great buildup, but a botched ending.
But hey, that’s just my opinion, you don’t have to agree with my thoughts.
Thanks for reading.