Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Writer's Corner: Epic Fail Endings

Peeps, I am so close to finishing my NaNo novel, I can almost feel the characters of my next novel getting impatient. Before you get all excited, I want to point out that I've been at this writing stage now for about two weeks and can't for the life of me come up with a big finale ending.
      My problem is that I can't stand cliffhangers. At least not the kinds that make you want to throw a book across a room. On the other hand, I still want to leave a few interesting threads that may entice people to come back for the second book.
      I have to confess, I always get this strange kind of serenely calm feeling whenever I've just read an epic book and it gets to the last chapter or the epilogue and things slow down a little for you to catch your breath. It's kinda nice to know that after weeks of turmoil, characters that you've grown to care about are finally going to get a bit of a break. It makes me wonder if I would get the same feeling if the super exciting climax (i.e all the physical fighting and stuff) occurred five chapters earlier and the rest of the book was about political intrigue? Because that's how my story is shaping up to be.
         I know the answer is to probably try and make the political stuff as exciting as possible but how do you write that kind of thing and make it more enticing than someone being chased through a forest and fighting for their life? It almost makes me want to employ the time honored soap opera trick of giving someone amnesia for no reason...
         I'd love to know what you guys think about books where the excitements ends quite a while before the actual ending of the book. If you can't picture any, think The Hunger Games where a whole section of the book is more about the aftermath. As always, I am all ears!


  1. The first book that came to mind was The Return of the King - there's the huge Battle and Aragorn is crowned king, but then we have that whole mini-episode of the hobbits returning to the Shire and finding Saruman in control there. So that book ends quite a bit after the final climax.

    JMO, but I do think five chapters after the climax is a little too much. I appreciate the whole 'after the storm' thing, but think it's best done in 1 or 2 chapters. I think if there's that much political intrigue afterward, it could feel like the start of a new book rather than the end of the first one.

  2. I loooove books with aftermath. There's something about the breath you take as the characters (and your heartbeat) calm down and lead into the next of the book. I dont really like super extra long aftermaths though. 2 chapters seems like more than enough unless of course it's super duper exciting. Otherwise, I think it should be relevant, but a nice reprieve from the rest of the book.

  3. I agree that books that end right after the conflict does, leave me hanging. I like a chapter, maybe two, to wrap things up and see the growth of the characters. It's great to give the reader and the characters a break.
    Good luck plotting your ending. If you listen to your characters, I'm sure they'll help you think of something. : )

  4. You took the words right out of my mouth--The Hunger Games ending. Maybe if you reread it, you'll get some ideas for inspiration.

    Also, take season finales of TV shows into consideration. Not all do super cliffhangers that make you think someone might die, some leave you hanging with something in relation to a potential relationship. (**TV show spoiler alert coming!**) On Veronica Mars season 1, they ended with Veronica standing at the door saying "I was hoping it would be you" but you didn't know which of the two boys she was saying it to UNTIL season 2. Or numerous shows that reveal something like a pregnancy, someone revealing their true feelings, or someone who reappears out of nowhere by leaving a message (or disappears).

    Even a small thing keeping a person guessing will make them want to read more but not want to throw the book. Whether it's something that has to do with the characters and their lives, or the politics of your book's world scene. Big can be awesome and all, but sometimes small can be equally as intriguing... just a thought anyways... :P

  5. When it's well done, I think a cliffhanger can be an extremely effective ending to a book, yet they are so often over-done or poorly done. So on the other hand, sometimes a book where the action winds down and gives you that chapter or two to catch your breath is NICE. I tend to go on the journey with the characters - I get INVOLVED with them and I feel what they're feeling. So that epilogue or those two chapters were the pace slows down a little at the end? Those are usually my favorites. I don't like books that are boom boom boom right up until the end.

  6. Well, since you asked. ;) I'm OK with a big cliffhanger ending, but, like you, I prefer a book that leaves you wanting more but that lets you and the characters breath a little. I've noticed with a lot of people's MS or even published first novels that the ending is way too rushed and thus feels completely unbelievable. So, I say, take your time and work on it till you get it right. Make sense????

  7. I think as long as you tell a real story, with a fully realized plot, you can end your story on a cliffhanger. It's ending it with a cliffhanger that's still in the middle of the plot that kills people/makes them throw the book.

    I think you need a document I have that might help you figure out if you've got a fully realized plot, or not. I was thinking of giving it to you, but I think I forgot. I'll pass it along. It's a really good outline that screenplay writers use to make sure they're telling a compelling story and it works for authors as well.

    You definitely can wind down your story after the plot is finished without it being a super epic ending. The key is writing a proper resolution. Sometimes that means mirroring how the story began, or just setting up the next arc, or the next volume. That will create a cliffhanger that won't make people angry because you've completed the book's plot (arc) and are just barely starting the next one that will make people want to read it, too.

    Did any of that make sense? LOL.

  8. Sometimes if the post-climax plot feels like it's really dragging on I start skimming. But honestly I would even prefer that to books that end immediately after the climax. I hate it when there's no wind-down period at all. I think Finnikin of the Rock does a great job with keeping the wind-down interesting--maybe it's because the action is over, but the romance hasn't been resolved yet.

  9. Yes, I thought of the ending of LOTR. They left that out of the movie, mind. Not sure how I felt about it, though now I think the short, simple wind-down worked better for the movie. I'm afraid I'm not a fan of cliffhanger endings, firstly because I prefer stand-alone books that don't force you to buy the next -if there even IS a next. I've known plenty where the book didn't sell as well as the publishers liked and there were a lot of fans who never found out what happened next.
    I agree that it isn't necessary to end on a climax and I, too,prefer a breather of a chapter or two. In the case of my own novel, Wolfborn, I startled some people by having a chapter after the climax where the hero has to go on another quest, because I didn't want the hero and heroine just to walk off into a cliched sunset - and there were issues unresolved. People complained about it, but would have complained ifI'd done the cliched thing too! :-)

  10. I am a firm believer in that nothing is ever quite solved. There are always ripples and consequences. I like endings where the hero believes the crisis is past, only to discover that his antagonist had a different gambit going all the time, and he/she is suddenly thrust into a new quest to save the day.

    That way one battle has been won, but the war goes on. Even the end of WWII only led to the equally dangerous Cold War with different rules and different theaters of engagement. Just a thought, Roland

  11. YES! This post is so perfect, Lan! :) If I'm honest, I have to say that I used to not mind cliffhangers that much, but now everything seems to end in one and it's kind of frustrating to keep track of them all LOL. Still, I get why authors would use them so I try to be okay with them after I get over the initial "Nooooooo, I need to know what happens NOW!" x)

    But I LOVE books with an aftermath! Cliffhangers can be okay, but not when they end right in the middle of the action -- that's where I draw the line! That's why I love it when an author shows what happens after the final battle of the book so we can have a chance to reconnect with the characters, as long as the aftermath isn't too long. :) And this is especially important for the final book of a series!

    Another awesome post for another awesome day, Lan! :) Thanks so much for sharing! <3

  12. I feel your pain. My first novels ending still doesn't make sense. All my characters randomly decide (finally) it is time to kill the main boss, which doesn't feel at all natural. That is why no one else has ever seen it. When I finished it, about a month later I was in the shower and thought of a much better way to end it, which I am told happens all the time.

    I wish you the best of luck with it, and don't stress it too much! Keep keeping on!!

    Beth ^_^

  13. Endings are HARD to write. I have no words of wisdom, as I have a horrible habit of leaving my stories unfinished. Hopefully you find a solution, and you can tell me! :)


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