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Monday, February 20, 2012

Lessons in Storytelling—THE END!


I was flipping through channels at 2:00 am the other day (I’m an insomniac :) and I came across a director talking about how he makes movies. He said something that just struck me, “People will forgive you a lot of mistakes IF you don’t screw up the ending!”

I think I messed up the quote a little (if you know it please correct me), but I got the main gist of it. I loved this idea because, for me, if the ending is bad it will ruin the whole book, even the whole series.

This is what ruins an ending for me:

No consequences for choices—I HATE this. If you’re going to make your character choose—STICK TO THE CONSEQUENCES! Don’t let them off the hook.

Rushed or incomplete endings—Don’t you hate reading and feeling like the author just gave up. As a writer I know this is probably not the case, but make sure your readers don’t feel like this.

Dragging out the story too long past the ending climax—This is so annoying. Please don’t do it :)

An obvious ending—It’s terrible to know for 100 pages how things will end.

Characters suddenly acting out of character—BOO! Don’t do this!

What do you all think? What ruins an ending for you?

-Angie

22 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

I don't mind an obvious ending, as long as it fits the story. I don't like writers who stick in a weird twist that makes no sense at all.

But I agree on the other points, especially the "no consequences" thing!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I like endings that offer hope and/or ones that lets me imagine the characters going off and continuing their lives.

I don't usually care for endings that tie everything up all nice and pretty and/or ones that leave off with too much of a cliffhanger. It's a balancing act - answering some questions and not others, leaving the reader wanting more but not leaving them breathless (or annoyed!)

Kelley said...

The rushed endings get me. That's what I thought about the third Hunger Games book. It felt like she was rushed...at least to me.

And yes, if there's no consequences, then what was the point? :)

Jack said...

Ugh, I agree with you 100% w/ no consequences for choices. This is my #1 pet peeve in storytelling. The writer ought to have written down every single instance throughout the book the characters make a decision, especially when that decision comes to play right at the end! I tell you, sometimes I think they forget and they expect us to take whatever they dish out. Lemme have at 'em! :)

Uncle Grumpy Bulldog said...

I prefer endings that aren't too happy. It's always disappointing if everything works out for everyone and they're going around singing some up-tempo song or something. I prefer the bittersweet endings, like "The Empire Strikes Back" vs. "Return of the Jedi" where in Empire everything didn't work out for everyone whereas in the other it was Happily Ever After.

And I'd agree with Kyra that I hate too those twist endings where it's one twist too many. Like when I watched the movie "Duplicity" and the big twist at the end could only be possible if our characters were complete morons. But the director wanted to get one more twist in there to mess with people, so he cast aside all logic and common sense to do it.

Brinda said...

I don't like the obvious endings as much. I like a happy ending, but I also like being surprised a little.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I love happy endings. I have a problem with figuring things out really fast, so obvious endings are normal for me. I LOVE to be surprised though. That's the best ending I think. Happy and surprising. :)

Meredith said...

These are all horrible things, especially when actions don't have the consequences they were supposed to have. And I'm not the biggest fan of a complete cliffhanger ending--I need some of the plot wrapped up, whether happily or unhappily.

JoLynne Lyon said...

Totally with you, on all points. But the one that bugs me the most is when the character gets out of the consequences.

Emily R. King said...

I like a lot of suspense. I've wondered why people like to watch movies based on true stories or books they've already read. I think it's the suspense of seeing it all unfold before their eyes for the first time. (I still don't get why Titanic was huge hit though.)

Leigh Covington said...

SO VERY TRUE! I hate all of those mistakes and I completely agree with that quote. If you mess up the end, then nothing else matters.

Johanna Garth said...

Those are all great tips for endings but I tend to think the beginning is just as important as the end.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Haha - great list there. One of the reasons I hated Mockingjay so much is because I felt like she really rushed the ending (the healing) too much. Then I heard she'd already begun writing the screenplay for the Hunger Games movies, so that reinforced my thoughts. A friend of someone in my bookclub has a friend who writes fanfic. She was so distressed at the unsatisfying (incomplete) ending, that she wrote a fanfic piece and filled it out. Did a wonderful job with it, too. If I can ever stomach reading the book again, I will print out that fanfic piece and add it to the end of the book. I've referred many people to it, and everyone's said they like the book better with the expanded ending. Collins should have given us that.

/endrant

Griffinclaw said...

Bravo for this post! Bravo! Because I completely agree with this. The best way to ruin a book effectively is to ruin the book. @Donna, sounds like you got an awesome friend! I've read the first two Hunger Games books lately (the first two I LOVE. Love love!) but the last book Mockingjay fell so flat in comparison! So so flat! The ending was so rushed, terrible climax, and even some of the characters seemed out of character a bit, but that was probably because of the rushed feeling.

Aldrea Alien said...

I've a tendency to read the ending of a story about halfway through the book, so as long as it fits the story, I'll take whatever ending is given.
On the other hand, I seem to have a habit of writing endings where the MC wins, but has had to sacrifice something to get what they wanted.

Clare said...

I agree that if an ending sucks you leave with a bad memory of the film/ TV series/ book. That exact thing happened to me with LOST.

You raise some good points, especially about the "no consequences" and "dragging out the story too long past the ending climax". You need resolution, but not 100 pages of it.

Angela Brown said...

I'm not big into decisions without consequences. Not sure how that really resonates with readers, especilaly when the lack of consequences follows some pretty poor or really stupid choices.

Maggie said...

You hit the nail on the head with this one! An excellent ending will trump most mistakes. So an un-excellent ending just sucks!

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I've forgiven some weird films when the end is fabulous. I think you are so right.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I have a friend who reads the last chapter or two BEFORE she starts a book. Almost without fail she does this.
She REALLY hates bad endings and won't waste her time if it's not going to end well.
True story.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I agree with you, because if I hate the ending then I know I'll ever be able to reread the book; I'll just keep dreading the ending. I hate it when characters make choices that I hate, like in love stories where the main character picks the wrong guy (in my opinion).

Gwen said...

I also hate it when I expect something, but don't get it. Like a giant fight scene in the last book of the Twilight series.

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