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Mar 19, 2009

Bad Endings

Natalie has summarized some of the factors that make for bad endings on her blog.

She listed:

1. Too unexpected

2. Negates the entire purpose of the story

3. No actual resolution

4. Goes against "the genre"

*looks around nervously* I don't see "ends on a cliffhanger" in there. Maybe I'm safe. Or maybe she just forgot to mention it. I think there are a few others I would add:

5. Has less dramatic tension than the earlier parts of the book, so ends with a "whimper".

6. Leaves too many loose ends -- questions raised earlier in the story are never answered. This is a less severe version of #3, but still annoying.

7. The resolution comes from outside the MC's efforts.


lisa and laura said...

We were so worried about the ending of our book. I think when you're writing a mystery sometimes it's easy to fall into the trap of introducing an entirely new character or even going with the tried and true Scooby Doo ending. We were really careful to leave lots of clues along the way so readers could go back and put the pieces of the puzzle together, but then we didn't want to make it too obvious either. It's a fine line...

Tara Maya said...

I honestly think mysteries are the hardest to end well, exactly because of the tricky balance you mentioned. Have you revealed enough but not too much? Is the ending a surprise but not out of the blue?

It's very hard!

In a fantasy, if you basically end a book with a war and a marriage, I think you'll do okay.

Tana said...

It's hard because as a writer you want to give the happy ever after but you also want to give a smart twist. Maybe the middle is the best?

Traci said...

I think I have seen just about every one of these bad endings in a book that I have read! LOL

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, I like number 7. I've come across that many times but couldn't quite place words as to why I disliked the ending so much. As far as cliffhangers...they absolutely irritate me unless I know there might be a resolution in a sequel. I also don't like authors who end many of their books in the same way (usually with someone dying). But I am a sucker for happy endings.

Anita said...

You know what I also think is interesting is the ending of each chapter. My husband was reading a chapter book to the kids the other night and I was in the other room folding laundry. I heard him read something like, "And Molly said, 'On three. One...Two...' OK, kids. That's the end of the chapter. Off to bed." The kids were so upset!

Natalie Whipple said...

Hehe, Tara, I cliffhanger, though annoying, it perfectly acceptable when it's a series. So I believe you are just fine. Awesome additions as well:)

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

I'd have to vote for cliffhanger endings being bad. But like Lisa and Laura say, leaving clues so the end, if it does surprise the reader, only surprises them a little.

#5 I'm not wholly in agreement here. I think I see what you mean, but the ending of the book can have a lengthy denoument (the wrap up) after the Crisis and resolution of the Climactic Moment. The denoument lets us know how the plot threads finished up; but really we know this after we see what happens at the climax. Most (like 99%) of the new stuff is over, and the ending is a tidying up. But perhaps I have that wrong; it's happened before!

#6 means you didn't wrap up subplots. If you have too much plot and can't get the subplots taken care of during the appropriate novel length, some have to go. Chop chop!
#7 is the dreaded and dreadful Deus ex Machina, and is to be avoided unless you are writing plays in 300BC Greece.

Tara Maya said...

I don't have a problem with a lengthy denoument. I was perhaps the only one who felt Lord of the Rings Return of the King ended too soon. :)

I meant the climax, rather than just the last chapter.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Great additions! I like the last one of the best. That can really kill a story for me. I like internal struggles and resolutions the best, obviously. :)

Martha Flynn said...

I feel like series cliffhangers need to tie up the central conflict but can leave exterior conflicts - I think Hunger Games is a great example.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Life doesn't always end up wrapped up in a perfect little package. That's why I wasn't so thrilled about Breaking Dawn - it seemed to end too perfectly (well, sort of).

And, maybe that's one reason we like to watch Indie movies too - not so predictable-sometimes you're left saying "Huh?"