Saturday, March 12, 2011

Endings are important, too...aren't they?

In the past two weeks, I've read five books. Something about each story made an impression on me, which made me think about it after I read the last page. Notice I didn't say "a happy impression." Not all the books had the same kind of ending, but all the story lines were good. They held my attention. I turned the pages, anticipating the next scene. And…I remember how they ended.

Remember "Gone With the Wind?" Who could not recall the story and especially—the ending. "I'll worry about that later. After all. Tomorrow is another day." It did not end happily, at least for Scarlet and Rhett, but it left us hanging a little. What would Scarlet do? We felt certain she would survive and move on, so we weren't very distressed. What would Rhett do? Probably he would return to his old habits and continue being the rogue that he was—with a broken heart, of course. The ending gave us a rare opportunity to imagine the next phase of their lives.

What does a reader wait for at the end? Satisfaction is the key word. The novel must have an ending that satisfies the reader. If not, the reader most likely will not return to that particular author. Just what does "satisfy" mean?

1. To answer or discharge a claim in full.
2. To make happy.
3. To pay what is due.
4. Convince.
5. To meet the requirements.

Surprised? A satisfactory ending does not always mean the same as "A Happy Ending." Nor does "a happy ending" hold the same meaning for everyone. For faithful romance authors and readers, a HEA is a requirement. Ninety percent of the books I read fall into this category. Even though I do read others that I know won't end happily, I look for some satisfaction for my protagonist—and myself.

~*~Did the author leave a glimmer of hope for happiness for my protagonist?

~*~Did the author make me believe wholeheartedly that the story was worth the time and emotional commitment I put into it?

~*~Did the author leave me with a lasting impression that her next book will be just as good?

~*~Did the author conclude the story with enough emotion to make me cry, laugh, or say "Yessss."

If none of these happen, you can bet I won't buy her next book.
What was the last book you read that did not have a perfect HEA, but you liked it anyway?
What is the best kind of ending for you to recommend a book?

Thanks for visiting with me today—
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

*TEXAS PROMISE: The Cameron Sisters-Book I
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*Steph Burkhart, Reviewer-Five Hearts


  1. Hi Celia:

    I think ‘satisfaction’ is a very good test for a book’s ending. It is somewhat subjective on how the reader feels. This is fine.

    I also like to think that an ending should have ‘integrity’. This would apply to all fiction in every genre.

    The ending must be true and honest and follow from what went before it. This would leave out ‘deus ex machina’ endings, ‘hurry up we’ve reached our page limit’ endings, books where the opening promised much that was not delivered, books with too many loose ends, books that falsify history to make the outcome more palatable == I'm sure there are many more examples. But I think you get the idea.

    An ending without integrity is a bad ending.

    This is really a great post topic to get one thinking. Thanks.


  2. And thank you, Vince. Your comments always have a little teaching snippet in them, so I read carefully. I really hate endings that seem to fizzle out--nothing that evokes a little emotion--such as one I recently finished (which shall remain unnamed)Celia

  3. I prefer books with happy endings. I tend to get emotionally connected to the characters and it breaks my heart when they experience a tragic ending rather than waving good-bye and leaving me with the knowledge that they've found a happier path. Needless to say, for this very reason, I've only read ONE of Nicholas Spark's books and will not watch any movies based on his work. I admit, he's a talented writer. But if I want to be thrown into a melancholy tearfest - I'll watch the evening news.

  4. I'm a HEA girl LOL. Now I'm going to sound like a submission page but...."or with the promise of HEA" :)

  5. I like happy endings but actually the endings I remember the best and struck a chord in me, didn't have the usual expected happy ending. But they had the right ending for the story.

  6. I like to feel that I've been so transfixed by the story that I haven't noticed the pages. If that happens, I'm hooked on an author!


  7. MAEVE--same here about Nicholas Sparks. Notice when his books are made into movies, the endings have been transformed into HEA. I hate that. Same with Jodi Piccoult's novels. At least, as with Nocholas, you know the ending will not be happy. In the case of Jodi P's, they're not only "not happy", they are downright morbid. And hers, too, when made into a move suddenly have happy endings. I really don't like that.

  8. DEBORAH-ME, TOO. But I have read a book or two without the requisite HEA and felt satisfied that the ending was as it should be for that particular story. Celia

  9. DIANE--I agree there. Linda Swift's book did not end as I would usually want, but as you say...for that story and that time, the ending satisfied me. We played "what do you think happened to them after the end of the book?" Fun. Celia

  10. MAGGIE-- I remember a few authors who wrote in such a way that I was transfixed. It doesn't happne often, but when it does, it's a moment to remember. Celia

  11. Celia, Im a romance I want either HEA or the promise of it. The exception is WELCOME TO HARMONY by Jodi Thomas. The main character in that is a 16 year old girl, so naturally I didn't want her to marry or commit to a man at that age. In the book, though, another couple did find HEA, so that made things right. I never read Luann Rice now after in one of her books the heroine dies just as it looks as if everything is going to work out. Boy, was I mad at that book and at the author! If I wanted sad endings, I'd watch the TV news. This doesn't relate to mysteries, though. In a mystery series, I expect justice and prefer cozy mysteries where the ending--if not a HEA--at least has a promise of happiness later. All in sll, I agree with Vince and Debbie.

  12. CAROLINE--I remember a couple of books I read years ago in which the main character died at the end--unexpectedly. One was title "Turning for Home" and like you, it made me angry. There was no hint she would die--about 20--and no reason as I could tell. The young woman had accomplished a major feat with the help of her friend and that girl's boyfriend and an elderly woman. Good story--then bang--she committed suicide. I think it was written in the 80s--maybe it was the thing to do.
    But see? I remember that book! And I've read hundreds--heck, maybe thousands--with happy endings and can't remember them. Hmmm.
    Thanks for commenting--Celia

  13. For me, the HEA is a must because I am a romantic and always want to see everyone happy together and with their lives. Two stories that still stick in my craw are Message in a Bottle and Sommersby. I couldn't believe how betrayed I felt at the endings because they didn't have to have a sad conclusion.

    So far I think I've been able to end my stories well and readers have told me so, but my fourth story is fighting me. I have come up with several scenerios, but none stick yet.

    You've really given us some food for thought. I do agree Gone With The Wind's ending was perfect. I have realized since writing that all stories cannot end happy, but at least you are prepared for this as the story moves along.

    That's my two cents.

  14. Paisley--You're right that some books don't end happily for no reasson. Like the book I was just talking about. There was no reason for the author to have her young heroine commit suicide, except I guess as a shock factor.
    Endings are not easy, as you describe with your current book. I usually see endings fairly easily, but I fiddle with them so much, they often don't read the same as the original--sort of an evolving ending.
    Good luck with your current ending. And Happy reading. Celia

  15. Celia, I'm glad I caught this blog today. You really explored the HEA question so well, and I wish I'd said the words Vince said. And since you mentioned my book that doesn't have the requisite HEA, I will say that I agonized about that ending myself. But when you create a situation you have to remain true to its logical conclusion or it will seem contrived and that won't satify readers either. But I'm happy to report that all my other books have HEA endings. Now my short stories.......
    I loved reading alll these comments today. Linda

  16. I love the unexpected - the trick is to help the reader take the journey and show him or her that not every formula results in the same conclusion. "What you expect" is both comforting and boring and we read what we like to satisfy a certain mood. I love to be surprised in a good way. HEA can have different aspects; it doesn't always have be instant gratification for me.

  17. Celia, I think you summed it up well with satisfaction. For me, I prefer happy endings because for me, a book is an escape and I want to know there's HEA for someone out there. LOL!! But I will be happy with an ending that offers hope and if there is a bittersweet ending then I want it to be appropriate to the story. Gone with the Wind for an example is a great bittersweet ending that is appropropriate to the story.

    Great topic, Celia.

  18. LISA--a very good synopsis. I, too, am happy enough with a bittersweet ending...if the story leads to that. But to have someone commit suicide at the end for no reason...that just isn't fair.
    It's wonderful we have so many book to choose from, isn't it? And so many different endings. Thanks for your excellent comments...Celia

  19. STEPH--a book is an escape for me, too. I don't particularly need to learn something from a novel..I only want entertainment. If I must think too hard, also, while reading, that takes the fun out of it.
    My book club selections--we vote--force me sometimes to read books out of my comfort Zone. One such is the Classi Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. Ickkkkk. I can barely get past the first page. It's going to be slow going! Celia

  20. I don't think a book absolutely has to have a happy ending, but there was one author I quit reading because everytime I finished one of her books, I was depressed. And it's a shame because she's a terrific writer. I don't like to be left feeling down at the end of a book. At any rate, she's very popular, so I guess in this case my opinion wouldn't matter.

  21. Celia--I always like to see a HEA ending. There are enough dramas in life so we need our books and dreams to end well. But what brings the happy ending is important to me. If it doesn't come in a logical interesting way I may be disappointed and will throw the book away.

  22. MARJA--I might guess which popular author you're speaking of. Me, too! After a while, we know to avoid certain authors because we know we will experience a letdown and depression. But! When Hollywood gets hold of the book and makes it into a movie, it will get a HEA. And that's wrong, too. Thanks for you thoughtful opinion. Celia

  23. MONA--me, too. I can find disappointment and unhappy endings anytime I want. The HEA is always nice. But...I don't mind reading a novel that actually has a satisfying end leaving me knowing each person will find happiness--just not with each other. Celia

  24. Ah, I like happy endings but they have to make sense and not just have everything suddenly sunshine and butterflies! I say I write upbeat endings. Hero and heroine may not wind up married. There may still be a question about what they will do. But it's always positive and hopeful.

    I read one of Picoult's books and have no interest in others. The whole style of it was odd and then I was left thinking... huh? Not a good thing.

    The last I read without a happy ending, but upbeat enough, is Steve Martin's "An Object of Beauty." Of course, it's not a romance. It's literary. But it ended well, if not happy. That's enough for me.

  25. LK--"upbeat endings" will work. I like that. I wonder why Jodi Picoult has such a loyal audience. She's certainly a talented author, but I just can't handle all those dark topics. Celia