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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Bad End

I seem to have a blog-rant against books with lousy endings on a five month cycle. I guess that's how long it takes for my reading toxins to build to rupture, as a reader, as a writer and as a writing teacher. 

So many books begin with great premise, interesting characters, compelling situations... But no matter how much fun we have splashing around in dialog and plot twists, eventually we’ve all got to put our pants back on and get out of there. 

Why is it so hard to do so with grace?

When a real-life relationship ends, the other manifestations of life go on. Even broken-hearted, we continue our involvement with breathing, with the production of mucus, with blood circulation. These activities may be affected by the ending of the relationship; We can’t eat -- or can’t stop eating. We can’t sleep -- or can’t stop sleeping, but still, we continue to pee. 

When a reader's relationship with a book ends, however, everything must cease. Even the indulgence of an epilogue must eventually stop peeing. 

But how?

We can’t just stop writing, and pretend the dog ate the last few pages. 

The main character’s suicide or murder isn’t the universally appropriate conclusion. Nor can we always end things with a tsunami, apocalypse, or catastrophic coronary event even if foreshadowed by the character’s poor diet and slovenly life style...

Many otherwise competent writers opt for selecting one of the Ever-Populars from the Auto-Ending list:  It was all a dream, or the ugly duckling / swan thing, or a revealing death bed confession of all missing facts, the radical personality transformation from good to evil... Or, a hail of bullets / backing out with guns blazing to ride into sunset, or, the tried-and-true cliff hanger.

BUT to quote myself from my November 7, 2012 blog rant:

A gift from Sally!
And I agree with myself to this day;  Shitty endings unravel all the charming character construction, clever world-building, and compelling insights, and leave the reader PISSED OFF. Resentful of any emotional involvement with the characters, regretting the time invested reading to the end, wishing revenge on the author who cheated us out of a clean, believable honest end.

A good book DESERVES / CRIES OUT FOR / DEMANDS -- a good ending. Not a punchline, but the inevitable ending that the author had been building toward, steadily and invisibly from the novel’s first breath. 

Is that too much to ask? To read such an ending? To write one?

And yes, ending a blog with a sigh is crap, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! I agree completely. Bad endings have ruined many a good book for me. I also think it is very hard to write endings, myself, (My blog has probably a ton of bad ending-entries :-) so I can kinda sympathize with writers on that one.