A to Z Challenge 2013

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Wonderings - Is Your End Abupt?

I just got done reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A few words of note however, before I plunge into the discussion. This book isn't my usual type of thing for two very distinct reasons:

1. It's a YA-genre book, which is definitely not my first choice.
2. 1st person writing, which I'm usually do not like.

I did not know that it had sci-fi elements when I picked it up, but it was a nice surprise. Honestly, I didn't know alot about the author or the book, other than I had seen quite a bit of mention here and there about it. On the whole, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Until the very end, that is.

Without spoiling the story for any of you haven't read it, I will merely say the end of the story was very abrupt. It just ended. There are all sorts of questions in my head at this point, wondering what will happen to the various characters. I also noticed the final line which reads "End Of Book One", an obvious clue that this is part of a series. So there is a reason for the book to end this way. But it got me to thinking about endings.

In this particular case, the author had a really good reason. The MC has done some things that have severe implications within her world, and it goes beyond just saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In an interview in fact, Suzanne Collins even stated that she hadn't intended to write the story as a series but that it became one due to necessity.

The topic of endings is especially important to me at the moment because I am working on ending my current WiP. I am not intending for this book to be part of a series, so I am trying to tie up all the various plot threads into a neat package. The question that bugs me is how to end it properly, without being too abrupt. There will be hanging questions of course, because my story ends with a cataclysmic change in human society. Deciding which questions to answer and which to ignore is one of my difficulties.

This got me to thinking about the idea that no story truly ever ends. If you think about it, there really is no way to end a story. For example, let's say the MC of a story dies at the end. A tale could still be told regarding those left behind, dealing with the loss of this person. What if the MC leaves for greener pastures? There's a story to be told regarding what it's like when they get there or what the place is like now that they are gone. Let's face it - unless you are writing an ending in which everyone lives happily ever after, there are threads of stories hanging off the edge.

I don't yet have any concrete ideas where I will draw the line and finally type The End. How do you deal with endings in your respective stories? How do you decide a particular plot thread is so secondary that it needn't be resolved?


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Very thoughtful post, Eric. For me, the answer lies in reading as a reader. As a reader, I know when an ending feels right, when--as you point out--all the key plot issues are resolved. So, I apply this logic to my WIP. I read it as a reader...this isn't always easy, I know, but, it can be done. If I do that and it feels right, then, I probably have a decent ending. If it kinda feels rushed, or I'm left wondering what about X, then, well, I've more work to do. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know. Just my take on it.

Best Wishes, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Cole Gibsen said...

Great post. It is interesting how lately, books that are intended to become series are allowed to leave so many loose ends untied. Personally, that just frustrates the heck out of me :)

Abby Annis said...

This was the main complaint about the first draft of my story. I did several rewrites before I decided to just rewrite the whole thing from scratch. I don't know if I ever got that old ending where it needed to be. I think the most important thing is to leave your reader satisfied, though unfortunately, I don't think there's a magic formula for that. Good luck!

Great post!

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

I'm having the same problem with my WIP. I recently posted about it. Part of my problem will be answered with and epilogue. My problem is getting the ending in my head so I can put it down on paper and I know the only way that's going to happen is if I just sit down and write it. At least I'm hoping so.

In my first book which is still not completed, I wrote a great, tearful ending. I even cried and I knew what was happening. Then I went and restarted it.

You'll do okay. You are going to know in your heart if your ending is too abrupt because you're conscious of that being a potential problem.

Good luck with that.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I'm battling with my ending too. I kind of leave a big question unanswered but I hint at how it might have been resolved. It isn't one of the main questions because that would be cruel to the reader but I didn't want to be wrapped up too neat and tidy.

Iapetus999 said...

I have a flash fiction piece that ends...without any possibility of sequel. Yes, it's the end of the world and everyone dies. I suppose there could always be heaven...
I was so happy to write an ending. Sometimes I focus so much on the start that I never get to the end. I think it's overlooked because the beginning sells the book. But the ending sells the next book. The beginning makes a sale, the ending makes a career. Which is more important?

Eric said...

Galen - This is a good point, and perhaps a practice I need to try. Thanks for the input.

Cole - I also do not like this trend. I'm probably considered old school, but I prefer one book to be one book. If there's a followup later, so be it. But have the one book be complete on its own.

Abby - Ouch, rewriting completely from scratch? That would be truly painful. I hope it came out okay though.

Elizabeth - You have a point. I am aware of the problem, so I guess I will know if I make it too abrupt. Thanks for "pointing" it out.

Karen - That's an interesting perspective. Done right, I suppose it might work well. You are right though, that you can't leave the main idea unfinished. Thanks for stopping by.

Iapetus - Your response reminds me of an old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. The game master gets tired of everyone messing around, so she just says, "Rocks fall. You're all dead." It's a classic retort that cracks me up. You have a good point though about the ending making a career, which is one reason why I'm trying to make it as good as possible. I'll keep the fingers crossed, but it may end up being a case of rocks falling.

jjdebenedictis said...

If you've done your world-building correctly, it should seem like the characters continue with their lives after the book ends.

That said, a book is a narrative, and a narrative makes sense out of events. The book should end when you've made some over-arching sense of what happens to at least your protagonist.

Jim Butcher said that stories should serve poetic justice to the characters. Good deeds are rewarded, evil deeds are punished. That's one way of making sense of the novel's events; what do each of your characters deserve? You end the story after they've all gotten that.