As humans, we aren’t really wired to cope with endings. For much of human history, food was scarce and predators a very real threat. We had to seize the moment. Eat whatever food was available. Fend off immediate threats.
Think about it. There are no “good” endings.
- The end of a relationship, even if we’re the one that ended it.
- The end of a candy bar
- The end of a book
- The end of life itself
While ending a book isn’t anywhere near as epic as the end of life itself, a reader has invested many precious hours of their life into what I’ve written.
They deserve a good ending. When they don’t get it, fans riot.
Remember Mass Effect? If you never played it, many of the fans of the game were angry at how the writers ended the trilogy. We’d invested ourselves in three full games, only to be cheated at the end.
I suspect they ended it the way they did to lure players into a MMO that they were planning.
Instead of launching that MMO, they ruined their brand, and many players, myself included, haven’t touched the game since.
As an author, ending the story is as important as beginning it. Maybe more important.
If the writer kills off the characters to get that ending, don’t expect to see me investing my time in another one of their books. I don’t just expect happily-ever-after, I demand it. This is my escape. If I want sad, I have the Economist for that.
I’ve heard the excuses:
- But it doesn’t give me the impact I want. I need a Romeo and Juliet ending.
- I have a message, a happy ending doesn’t convey it
- But some stories just don’t have a happy ending
- I need a jump-off to my next novel (which is a fast way to make me angry. Give me a whole story, a complete story, and let the next book(s) stand on its own)
My response to these excuses: Get more creative. I want better. I want an ending worth the time I invested.
With these thoughts in mind, I started to edit the ending of my current novel. After a couple of hours, I knew the ending sucked. Not Mass Effect sucked, but it was still bad.
My beta reader was right. It needed something more. Something epic. A man has to choose between right and wrong, and his choices dictate not only his life but that of a kingdom. This should grip the reader and make them anxious before resolving it.
I cut over 8,000 words. That’s 10% of my novel. And I started over to write a better ending. To write an ending that would make the reader do a fist pump. To write an ending worthy of the time the reader spent in my world.
Yeah, it’s hard to cut that many of my darlings. Again. But I hope it’ll be worth it in the end.
How about you? Do you prefer a happy ending? Do you demand it? Ever do a massive rewrite and watch a huge chunk of your story disappear behind the Delete key? Ever have to rewrite a whole ending?