Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Endings Are Important, Too...Aren't They?

Since January 1, I began keeping a list of every book I read. Already, my list is long. For my own private notes, I use a check mark for books I liked very much, a check mark plus for an outstanding read, and a question mark for books that bewildered me in some way, or did not have a good ending. Most of the books have check marks. Maybe ten have a plus sign, too. Very few have a question mark.

(If I read a book to the end, it's because I like the story. Those books I didn't like did not find the Have Read pile.)

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 remember 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
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  1. Celia,

    I have been reading down my stack of books from the mystery conference I attended in early April. One mystery that still resonates was one about the fate of abducted native women in Canada. The sleuth and her friend barely escaped death, one native girl was rescued, but many more died. But it wasn't that story so much as the strides the sleuth made against alcoholism and self-worth that stuck with me. A Green Place for Dying by RJ Harlick

  2. Hi Celia, I've been keeping a list of books I read each year since 2000. Sometimes, it helps when I can't remember if I read a certain book or not.

    I just finished a book where the ending seemed really rushed. It was almost like the author realized she was getting close to the 300 page mark so just threw the ending together. I could say it'll stick with me because I'm not sure I'd read another book by this author.

  3. Actually, I hated the ending of Gone with the Wind. I know it couldn't have ended in any other way, but I still hated it!
    GTWW may be called a romance but I think romances need to end with the reader knowing that the hero and heroine are now together.
    As authors, we throw problems, conflicts, and obstacles in their way, but a satisfying ending comes when they manage to overcome all these.
    'Happy Ever After' is a fairy-tale ending. Real life isn't that easy, and I want my readers to feel that the 'happy ending' is not that they will have no problems from now on, but that the characters have overcome their problems etc in a way that shows they have learnt enough about themselves and each other so they will now be able to face - together - whatever life will throw at them in the future.

  4. So I'm not the only one who keeps lists. I have my Must-Buy authors who are rated 1 and 2 and my Do Not Buy List with qualifications. If there is a 2 or a 3, then they were all right, but I didn't love them. If there is no number, I was too disappointed to want to risk reading them again.

    I've never been satisfied with the end of The Lord of the Rings. I hated what happened to Frodo, but I also knew it had to end that way. I've read the book several times, and will read it again. It's a great book.

    The perfect ending doesn't feel like I've run into a brick wall, ie, it just stops. Nothing annoys me more than reading a couple hundred pages of a relationship developing, and then being given only 1 or 2 pages to enjoy the fact they actually figured it all out. Only three pages is pushing it. I prefer four or five.

  5. Maggie--This would make a very good review. This is what I like most from books--characters who are redeemed in some way. I would have remembered that, too.

  6. Katherine--interesting. I've read that kind of statement that reviewers might make on some book. They never like that, and always seem to pick up on it, if it's the facts.
    I don't remember one specifically where that happened, but I do think I could spot it.
    Thanks for your input..

  7. Paula--the happy ending is much more real than the fairy tale ending. I understand your thoughts, because you're right.

    You know the author broke all rules of writing a romance/ adventure--we didn't like the heroine, we didn't really like the hero, both acted awful to each other, and both were selfish too the nth degree.
    Scarlet redeemed herself a little..but not enough to make a lovable heroine.
    I did not like the ending, either--but I sure do remember it! I think that's one mark of a good ending.

  8. Laurel--that's a good point, that we should have more than two pages at the end to enjoy the H and H getting together. To end abruptly isn't fair!
    Our son was the Lord of the Rings guy, but he read only the books when he was in jr high. I had no idea what they were about. We allowed our two kids to read anything they could understand from very early ages. (it did cause my mother to hyperventilate, but this practice did not seem to hurt either one.)
    Lists--oh, yes, and I love to Google lists of all kinds.

  9. I find that I enjoy writing my endings the most. I'm excited that my H and H have finally sorted everything out, and it's a huge cathartic relief to write my last pages. I feel the same way as a reader. And you're right, if I don't get that great feeling at the end, I tend to forget the other things I enjoyed in the middle.

  10. Patty--yes, I understand you. I sometimes rewrite the ending a dozen times. I may have the general idea, but sometimes it's difficult to get it down just right. And I want those last few pages, and those last words to really make an impact.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.