Have you ever read a book and when you got to the last word, and closed the cover, you felt cheated, like someone has just robbed your wallet and sucked ten hours of your life? I hate books like that.
A satisfying ending makes you feel good, real good, like you want to smoke a cigarette afterwards or something. You close the book, sigh real deep, lean back in your comfy recliner and ponder the world you just left behind. I'm getting warm just thinking about it.
But writing a satisfying ending can be difficult. You have to pull everything together and in a way that isn't too obvious. The end must be surprising and inevitible.
And according to fiction writer E.A. Hill, "A satisfying end doesn't always mean a happy ending. Authors don’t owe their readers a happy ending (unless it’s an expectation of the genre). They don’t owe annihilation of all evil. They don’t owe restoration for every injustice faced by their characters. But they do owe their readers satisfaction, a completion of the contract entered into when the reader laid out money and/or time to live in the writer’s world for a couple of hours. It is justice, of a kind. Fair dealing between writer and reader. And if it’s done well, the completion of this contract, the writer has reason to hope that the reader will both recommend the novel and look for more from the same author."
E.A. Hill gave the following checklist to ensure reader satisfaction:
- Is the end inevitable? (Or would other endings make more sense?)
- Was the end hard won? (Or did the hero fall into his triumphs?)
- Does it make sense by every measure? (Or were vital steps glossed over?)
- Is the end long enough—deep enough—for the length and breadth of the novel? (Or
does a 400-
page novel get a two- paragraph resolution?)
- Are major plot points addressed without being overemphasized? (Or does the ending drag?)
- Are burning questions answered? (Or are they relegated to nothing status by the end?)
- The main character is someone the reader identifies with.
- Conflict and tension are present and dynamic.
- Reader emotions are engaged.
- Pace varies.
- Action is seen, not only talked about.
- The story is layered, so the reader must be satisfied by several outcomes on several levels.
- The ending grows out of earlier events.
What are some books you've liked or didn't like because of their endings?