Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Phyllis A. Whitney - Endings

During my teens and into my adulthood I read many of Phyllis A. Whitney's novels. When I picked up a book of essays by many authors, I read one of hers that struck a real note with me. I remember reading this years ago and put the advice in a note I was compiling about writing. This was about endings to the story. Yje gist was to leave your readers satisfied. A happy ending isn't actually necessary but the reader should be left with a feeling that this was the right ending to the particular story.

Those of us who write in the many genres are used to producing happy endings. The hero and heroine are together. The villain is being punished. Sometimes this happy ending isn't the right ending to the story but the ending should satisfy the intent of the story. The long drawn out ending where the writer spends pages explaining the entire story as a recap may make the reader scratch his or her head. This kind of ending has been used in mysteries written in the past and doesn't work today.

What if the ending is unhappy and there are those that are. I once had a reviewer really like the book but the lack of a happy ending troubled her. But because of the hero and heroine's cultural background they couldn't be together happily every after. What I wrote was a satisfactory ending with the promise they would see the other again with the hope that there would be a future for them.

Another thing that will lead to an ending that isn't completely satisfactory is letting some of the strings od the story remain unresolved. Not this can happen when one is writing a trilogy or a series. A writer must write a satisfactory ending that shows the story isn't over and there's more to come. I call this the tease ending. This meand the current story has ended but the reader will look forward to the next one in the story.

There are also times when the happy ending of a story seems forced. To me this often happens when the writer adds a postlogue that takes place in the future that shows the characters in a scene saying, "See this is a happy ending." As a reader I am usually turned off by this kind of ending.

What's your take on this? Are happy endings necessary for a story to end or should the ending be satisfactory? To quote Phyllis A. Whitney "If you keep in mind where you are going from the beginning, you will be likely to leave a satisfied reader at the end."


Unknown said...

Great post. Hmm. I don't need a happy ending but I do like a satisfactory one. I don't like tease endings. If the story/writing/characters have grabbed me, I'll buy the next book without needing a teaser.

Margaret West said...

No! A couple of my books have bittersweet endings and the blurb states that not all romances end happily, some are bittersweet. Life isnt always happy, why should fiction be.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

In romance stories, a happy ending or a resolution to the love of the characters must happen or it falls flat. There are stories that have impact without having a happy ending such as Saving Private Ryan. Although it seems popular, I don't like the almost happy ending at the end of some Sci-Fi stories where the characters think they're safe but lurking in the darkness, an unseen threat remains.
A very thought provoking blog.

Sherry Gloag said...

I am one of those readers who prefer HEA, but... it all depends on the genre I'm reading. I do at least look for satifying endings. I feel cheated if I spend time reading a book only to end up feeling depressed when I turn the last page.
That doesn't mean I think the book is badly written, no, it means that kind of story is not for me.
Great post.