I was recently discussing a novel’s ending with a writer friend. We agreed that, while not perfect, the author had pretty much nailed the ending. We felt satisfied. Its character arcs felt complete. We both found the ending moving and multidimensional, and it obviously left us thinking, hence the conversation. (If you’re curious, the book is Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid.)
During our conversation, I was seeking to refresh my memory about an element of the book and I stumbled on a review of it. A scathing review. From a reviewer who really seemed to hate the ending.
A few days prior to the Daisy Jones discussion, I’d seen an interview with the Russo Brothers—Joe and Anthony, who produced and directed Avengers: Endgame, along with a half-dozen other Marvel movies. The interview was hosted by Twitter, and as the brothers settled into their seats and the crowd applauded, Joe jokingly said, “Oh good. These are the nice people on Twitter.”
Russo’s joke was funny because a lot of fans on Twitter really seem to hate Endgame’s ending. A lot.
The two incidents got me thinking about endings. Of course they reminded me just how subjective and varied reactions to storytelling are bound to be. But they also caused me to examine what makes an ending satisfying to me. And how my taste and preferences inform my own endings. And beyond that, what we, as fiction writers, owe to readers (if anything).
No Real Ending
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop telling the story.”—Frank Herbert
I’m not sure if it’s a series thing, and that I’m a series guy, but Herbert’s quote really resonates for me. I’m currently considering a change to where book one of my trilogy-in-progress ends. It wouldn’t change the events in the continuum of the story. But it very well could determine whether or not a future reader continues on to book two.
The fact that this trilogy is a prequel to my first trilogy makes Herbert’s quote all the clearer to me. Although both trilogies are centered around the lives of my protagonists, there are a million things I’d love to include outside of that focus in order to set up the ongoing tale of my story-world.
But I can see how this is true for stand-alone books as well. Whether an ending is happy or sad or something in between, stuff is going to happen after “The End.” [Read more…]