Saturday, 5 February 2011

The End...or is it?

I saw something this week in passing, didn't make a note of it, and now can't remember where it was or exactly what it said. It was about ending a book, and that novice writers often end with a cliff-hanger because they haven't thought out the ending. Or something like that.

It made me pause for thought: my first novel has, if not a cliff-hanger, an ending which is not resolved. It's not resolved because I couldn't bring myself to kill the baddie. In fact, I wanted him to get away because I can think of some cool, dastardly things he could do in the next book!

Then a group of coincidences occurred, as they often do, all to do with endings: a short story I read had an ending which I found totally unsatisfying; a play on Radio 7 (totally absorbing and wonderfully read) had an ending both ambiguous and sudden. Yes, I know the programme was an hour long, it was coming to the end of the hour but really, it felt as if the author had suddenly looked at the clock and whack! Brought the axe down and finished the story there and then.

Unsatisfying? Certainly. Frustrating? Exceedingly.

But it did make me think about endings of books. I don't have any experience of writing an good ending...yet. I will be making changes to my wishy washy ending and trying to make it the 'Right Ending' for the story I told.

That doesn't mean it has to be a Happy Ever After ending. It seems to me that any book, which tells a story, sets up expectations in the reader. If the author is experienced then the reader may not be aware of those expectations. The reader's right brain/Muse/instinct or whatever you care to call it will have registered them, though. And if those expectations which the author raises are not met, then there will be a feeling of dissatisfaction for the reader.

Those expectations raised by the author will point towards a certain type of ending. So an ambiguous ending is fine provided the reader is, on some level, expecting it.

So, can I write the 'Right Ending' for my book?
Seems a tall order right now but I feel a whole lot better because I knew, really, the ending I had just wouldn't do.

Another coincidence happened today. Emily Casey did a post on her blog about endings which you can see at

How are you with endings? What sort of endings do you prefer? And how about the Ambiguous Ending?


  1. It's difficult - especially when you have plans to continue our story in a sequel - to ensure all the immediate questions are answered in a way that still leaves room for more questions to be asked. My villain actually surprised me and did something heroic near the end, leaving a lot of new questions to be answered in the next book. Not sure if this was a good move or not, but somehow, like you, I couldn't bear to part with the scoundrel!

  2. How nice to have your villain surprise you. Cool :)

    I see Holly has something about endings in her HTTS bonus which will be coming soon. That should shed some light on the matter :)