Mickey Spillane once said that the ending sells the next book. Have you ever read a book where you got to the last page and the book just seemed to abruptly end?
Have you ever read a romance novel where the novel ended with the hero going to jail and the heroine has another nervous breakdown. A novel is out there like that. Not very satisfying is it?
Have you ever read a book where others swooped in like the special forces and solved whatever problem the hero and heroine had? That’s not nearly as satisfying as a story in which the hero and heroine must figure it out themselves.
Have you ever read a book ending where you felt the hero and heroine had Divorce Court Or a Psych Ward in their near future?
ENDINGS THAT DON’T WORK FOR READERS:
- CLIFF HANGER ENDINGS WHERE NOTHING IS RESOLVED and the reader is supposed to wait several months to buy the next book to find out what happened.
- ENDINGS THAT HAPPEN TOO FAST and comments such as these are left in reviews: The book drops off, ends, and you are left with the feeling of “Where’s the rest of the story?”
- A ROMANCE WHERE THE ENDING IS NOT HAPPILY EVER AFTER. The hero dumps the heroine, has sex with someone else, goes to jail, and the heroine has a nervous breakdown is a prime example.
- HAPPY FOR NOW, LIVING TOGETHER, WITHOUT MARRIAGE ENDING is not liked by some readers because it is open ended, and not happily ever after as in the traditional romance which is about love, marriage and family. The ending needs a wrap up.
- MYSTERY ENDS WHERE THE DETECTIVE EXPLAINS ALL THE CLUES. The reader should not have to be told.
- A SAD ENDING WHERE ONE WONDERS HOW THE STORY WILL REALLY END. “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)
TIPS THAT MIGHT HELP YOU AVOID A BAD ENDING:
1. RESOLVABLE CONFLICT. Remember to set up your h/h’s conflict so that it is something that CAN be resolved without seeming impossible. The DA/SERIAL KILLER analogy sounds intriguing on the outside — but if the character TRULY is a SERIAL KILLER with a criminal mind and problems that accompany this behavior, then a romance simply won’t work. It could possibly work as a psychological thriller, however.
2. IN ROMANCE THE FOCUS OR MAIN PLOT IS AWAYS THE RELATIONSHIP. IN MYSTERIES, THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE CRIME. Everything in the book is tied to that Focus. This means that the subplot must be resolved before the romance is resolved whereas in mystery, the crime must be solved. The emphasis should always be the main plot— the developing romance between your hero and heroine or the collection of clues to solve the crime. Never have your hero and heroine in a romance declare their love or detectives solve the crime then go on for another 50 pages tying up the sub plot. The last major peak in a romance, the black moment, should relate to the romance. By this point, their desire should have shifted from what they’ve been wanting (their goal) to each other. The interest of the reader lessens once the hero and heroine declare their love and all is forgiven. In a mystery, the crime is always solved. If it isn’t, it becomes a wall clunker.
3. DEMONSTRATE THE CHARACTER’S CHANGES. A suggestion Alicia Rasley makes is to look for a concrete event or action a character can take to show the set of changes he/she’s been through.
5. FORESHADOW YOUR ENDING. What you want to strive for in your ending is a sense of the inevitable. You reader should know based on who your characters are at the beginning, the ending you’ve written as the only one that could occur.
6. REWARD THE ROMANCE READER WITH AN EPILOGUE. Once you’ve resolved the plot and romance complications, your readers want to know that whatever future problems the hero and heroine encounter, their relationship will survive. They want a chance to see the hero and heroine in the happiness they’ve found. In Classical Greek Structure, they refer to this as the ‘after’ world. You want to allow your readers at least a page or two to explore how their world is after they’ve found each other.
Do you have a favorite last line or ending to a book? What do you think of the trend toward cliff-hanger endings with serial books?