"Story endings are hard to write - often much harder than beginnings. Any author who wants to be published must understand how to write a book with a powerful ending."
~ Marg McAlister
This is where I'm currently living in my revision coma: the pre-climax, climax, resolution phase. The oh-my-gosh-endings-are-totally-not-my-strength phase. Yes, the book was finished. Yes, I do have my fabulous agent. Yes, I'm still re-writing the ending. And because my brain is stuck in ending mode right now, what better topic for today's post?
For my benefit and yours, here are a few "no-no" tips about endings. According to Marg McAlister, there are four main BAD endings that will get your hand slapped by agents and publishers everywhere (from "Write a Story Ending That Will Satisfy Readers"):
1.) The Story Ending That Is Too Good to be True
The underdog not only wins through but is suddenly popular, rich and powerful. The ugly duckling swaps glasses for contact lenses, ditches the frumpy hairdo, loses weight, dresses better and marries the 'prince'. The author's mantra here should be "the hero can end up with what he MOST wants, but not EVERYTHING he wants."
2.) The Story Ending That Goes On... and On... and On
Build up to the story climax, write the final powerful scene, then get out of there. Any scenes that follow the story resolution should be short so they don't detract from the ending. Part of a writer's craft lies in understanding how to tie up various plot threads ahead of time, so they are not faced with having to explain it all right at the end.
3.) The Story Ending That Leaves Unanswered Questions
Sometimes the author deliberately leaves the reader wondering what happened as a device to sell the next book in a series. This ploy probably works for popular, established authors, but it results in a lot of unhappy readers. They really don't want to wait a year for the next book to tell them what happened. If the author is not so well known, the reader might not bother buying the next book at all.
In other cases, the author fails to answer questions simply because they've forgotten. In the race to finish the book (Hooray! It's done at last!) they've missed resolving some 'minor' point. Unfortunately, readers usually keep turning pages because they're curious about what happened... and this applies to lesser plot elements as well as the main story question. By keeping a plot notebook, authors can help to eliminate this problem. A story timeline can include all questions that need to be answered by the end of the book.
4.) The Story Ending That Kills off the Main Character
Authors who kill off the main character (or let them die from some ailment) will defend their decision to the end: "In real life, people die. Life's not always perfect," or "He had to die to be true to the story."
Some readers agree and don't mind the main character dying (even if they shed a tear or two) but readers treat it as the ultimate betrayal. They have identified with this character; they have lived in his skin; they have viewed the world through his eyes; they have felt what he feels. The main character's death is like a death in the family. Authors who want to sell the novel and to win readers should give careful thought to the fate of the main character.
So, what do you think . . .
Do you agree? Or are there any you disagree with?