Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The End Is Only The Beginning

I recently blogged about first lines and first pages - First Line Fear, First Page Panic. But let's not forget about The End. 

"Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.
They read it to get to the end.
If it's a letdown, they won't buy any more.
The first page sells the book.
The last page sells your next book."
(Mickey Spillane)

I think this holds true for all stories, for all books, not just mysteries. As a reader, I don't need the ending tied up with a sparkly pink bow. I like a good wrap-up, with maybe a few loose ends so I can imagine the story continuing to unfold beyond the pages. I'm good with a vague ending, one that's open to some interpretation. I don't care for cliffhangers, though. I don't want to feel manipulated into buying the next book in order to see how this one ends. 

As readers, we put time and often money into a story or a book. We put our trust in the author, believing that he or she will deliver from start to finish. 

As writers, we're responsible for safeguarding that trust. We must bring our readers out the other side happier, more entertained, more satisfied than when they started. We need to leave them better off for reading our work. 

So, as readers, what's your favorite kind of ending? How do you feel about cliffhangers? As writers, how much time do you spend perfecting the ending versus the beginning? How do you leave your readers wanting, not needing, more?

36 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think if you can satisfy them with wrapping up the story while leaving room for the character to grow further, that works.
I just don't want a really unhappy ending. All that time reading to find out the hero loses in the end - no fun.

Maria Zannini said...

Here's the thing about cliffhangers. If it was not a great book, a cliffhanger makes you feel angry. Although part of you wants to know what happens next it's not enough to invest in a second book, so you feel cheated.

I like books that are wrapped up but leaves the reader wondering what happens to the characters when this story ends. That means the author built a story and a set of characters that made me care.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I enjoy a series with recurring characters, where the personal storylines continue into the next book, but where the main plot/mystery/etc is solved in the one book.

I don't mind a dark ending as long as there is still some hope, some light. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've read books that I didn't know were part of a series so the cliffhanger came at even more of a surprise. And not a good one.

I love when I continue thinking about the characters, wondering what they're up to now, even after the story on the page ends. :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

I agree with this thought that "The first page sells the book.
The last page sells your next book." I like it when writers wrap up their stories satisfactorily with no loose ends. I crave Happily Ever Afters.

M.J. Fifield said...

I just really want the ending to fit the story. Sometimes, they need cliffhangers, and sometimes they need that sparkly pink bow. I don't have one that I prefer over another, just as long as it fits.

Christine Rains said...

That's an excellent quote. I don't mind cliffhangers if I don't have to wait a really long time for the next book. I know more books with great beginnings but poor endings. I think writers do need to spend just as much time on the end.

Anonymous said...

I like endings that aren't happily ever after, but hopeful. The books that have stayed with me didn't tie everything up nicely, but left this feeling of hope that everything will be okay. My other favorite ending that I also hate a bit is a dark ending. Those always leave me wanting to rethink the ending and have actually caused me to come up with my own stories because I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen next and it morphs into its own story.

Loni Townsend said...

I try for a satisfactory ending. I'm not a fan of cliffhangers at the end of the book, unless there's already another book released to follow it. Then I'm fine with it. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I like a good Happily Ever After, but only if it fits the story and especially if it makes me cry with its "rightness." :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Excellent point, MJ!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It's funny though because it seems - to me anyway - that there are a lot more craft articles and books dedicated to the starts of our stories rather than the endings.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

As much as I enjoy reading and writing dark stories, I need some light at the end of the tunnel, some hope on that last page. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've learned to make sure - for the most part - that the next book in a series is at least available before I start reading the first book. :)

Crystal Collier said...

I am totally with you. I HATE cliffhangers. I want a story to stand on its own two feet and drag me along because I'm invested in the characters, not because the STORY DIDN'T END. At the same time, they sell.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I write - and enjoying reading - slightly open endings, ones where the reader has to think about it and perhaps come to their own conclusions. I don't like cliffhangers - the story of the novel has to be complete, even if the arc is still being created.

Murees Dupè said...

I don't like cliffhangers. Even if I have to read the next book, give me an ending that will satisfy me for now. I personally write happily ever after endings. I want the reader to feel happy after they read it. But, that might be the easy option:)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

That's how I feel - the story needs to stand on its own feet.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

As long as the story feels finished, I don't mind open-ended endings, ones that might be up for interpretation.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I want to WANT to read the next book, not feel like I HAVE to. :)

There's nothing wrong with happy endings!

Julie Flanders said...

I'm a little weird but the stories that have always stuck with me the most are those that don't have happy endings. But I do agree that there needs to be some sense of hope. It can't be overwhelming doom and gloom.

I can't even remember what it was now but I recently read a book that ended in a cliffhanger and I was totally annoyed because I didn't like the book enough to want to get through another one. I also didn't know that the book was the start of a series so it came as a surprise to me. But if I know a book is part of a series and I'm already reading the series I don't mind a cliffhanger.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

One of my favorite endings is the one to Me Before You - the book and the movie. Tears but also hope. :)

I've had that annoyed/angry feeling re the cliffhanger, the series etc. It feels almost like a betrayal of sorts.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

I care so much about endings. They have to be exactly right. More than anything, I want them to evoke emotion in the reader--and in me.

I usually like them to be a little open-ended, but the obvious cliff-hanger "buy-the-next-book" ones piss me off.

That's a fantastic quote, btw. I tweeted it and tried to tag you, but couldn't find you on Twitter. Are you on there?

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I read that quote ages ago and hung unto it, waiting for the perfect time to use it. :)

Thank you for trying to tag me, but I"m not on Twitter. Maybe one of these days. I'll probably end up joining when everyone else has moved on to the next thing. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Cliffhangers might work for chapters in some genres, but I hate books that end in a cliffhanger where I am expected to wait up to a year for the next book.

My editor invariably makes me cut my last chapter, or in the case of my recent sale, the epilogue. Apparently I have a tendency to drag things out beyond the natural book's ending.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I enjoy cliffhangers at the end of chapters, although they often make me stay up way past my bedtime. :)

Kristin Smith said...

I actually don't mind cliffhangers, especially if it makes me want to buy the next book and I don't have to wait too long to get it. I usually end up starting a series after the first two, sometimes three, books are already released so it's a win-win. The endings draw me in and I don't have to wait! :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I enjoy series like Lisa Gardner's DD Warren and Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles because each book can pretty much stand on its own in terms of plot, but the personal story threads often continue into the next book.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

That Mickey Spillane quote is so so true, from my perspective as a reader :)

I wish you a terrific weekend!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Have a good one yourself!

Chrys Fey said...

I always pay special attention the the opening and ending of my books. If it's a series, I do try to leave it open to let readers know there's more to come. I try not to create a cliffhanger that'll make them mad, though. haha

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

We definitely don't want to make our readers mad in that way!

emaginette said...

I hope I've entertained and made their lives a little better. Anything else is icing on the cake of my day. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

If my stories have made readers smile or shiver or cry or cringe (in a good way!) then job well done. :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

I like a little bit of open horizon for the characters at the end of a book so I can imagine a little of what might come next. I try to end my books that way, but I'm not sure if I've captured it right, yet.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love that description - an "open horizon" ending. Such a great visual, seeing the characters continue on, even if just in the readers' imaginations. :)