Thursday, October 29, 2009

The End


Of the world as we know it...

Okay, it's really not. But every time I think of those two words, or write them, I think of that REM song. I can't help it.

And this isn't about me writing THE END. Heck, I haven't written in about 6 weeks. Editing sucks the writing life right out of you. Well, okay, I have penned the occasional short this week, but nothing significant.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about endings. I always always struggle with writing the end of my novels. Lately, as I watched a friend go through this same struggle, I started thinking about The End.

And I realized why writing THE END is sometimes hard (at least for me).

Because we truly love these made-up people that we're writing about. And we want their story to end like Cinderella's, with Prince Charming on the white horse and living in the big castle with the nasties polishing the floor.

But most of the time--at least for me--there isn't that Happily Ever After. Rarely do my novels end in rainbows and sunshine and a fabulous pink gown. I don't mind novels that do. It's just not how I write.

Once I realized that, letting the story go toward the dark side became easier.

What about you? Is writing the end easy? Hard? Do you tend to end your stories happily? Why or why not?

32 comments:

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh gosh, we're wrapping up the WIP right now and it's TRICKY. I don't think happily ever after is always realistic, but the end does have to be satisfying. Tricky, tricky.

Icy said...

I never really have a preference towards a happy or a sad ending. I have a vague idea of an ending in mind when I start, and then I zigzag about as I get there. I like to write whatever ending suits what has come before, although there's nothing like writing a good comeuppance!!

Tess said...

L&L's comment has me singing the old Run DMC song 'it's tricky' in my head...ah, the memories...

anyhow - I have a tendency to write what I call more realistic endings and others call unsatisfactory endings. I'm working on it.

PJ Hoover said...

OMG, I always think of the REM song, too. And not just in writing. In everything. Now that is staying power. Was it hard for REM to write the song?

Oh, yeah, my stories end happy but with a hint that more could always come which might not be so happy.

T. Anne said...

I've had that song in my head al week. Hmmm? I've hit the end of my edit last night and am starting in again. *sigh* Pray I get it right this time.

Tere Kirkland said...

Leonard Bernstein!!

Thanks, E, now that song is going to be in my head all day!!

Hmm, the end is difficult because I want to get it right. And my endings usually involve characters covered in blood and grime who have lost and learned and finally found some semblance of peace.

Mandy said...

I have a hard time letting go of the story. I want to keep the make-believe relationship I have with my characters going.

I love the pic in this post by the way! My son was drawing comic panels last night and at the end of every one, he wrote 'Fin'. He's so chick!

Steena Holmes said...

thanks for putting that blasted song in my head! Now it won't leave.

My ending is weak - I think I was so excited to be finished and I gave myself a time line to finish - that I didn't concentrate on the quality.

I am pretty confident once I get to the ending in my revisions it will either be enhanced or scrubbed.

Abby said...

I think the hardest part about endings is writing something that everyone will be satisfied with. I don't think they all have to be happy endings, but the one's that don't resolve everything (or at least the major stuff, if there's a sequel), make me crazy.

Stephanie L. McGee said...

I definitely lean toward the HEA ending. But with my current WiP, well, it's the first part of a trilogy so there won't really be a whole lot of ending. There will be resolution, but there will be some major threads left hanging.

Nisa said...

I believe in happy endings so I think my stories will reflect that, but the story I just finished is part of a series and didn't have the happiest ending. I think there was enough hope to propel an optimist forward however.

Carolyn V. said...

Once I know where I want my story to go (usually by the middle of the book), I stop and write the ending. I find that if I don't, I get tired and sloppy and the ending sounds rushed. It's the only thing that has helped. =) Good luck on your ending!

Kat Harris said...

I like leaving it completely up in the air. I think doing that makes the reader continue to think about the characters long after they've put down the book.

Scott said...

Writing 'The End' is part of the process, and not the easy part. I'm like you - rarely do all my characters have neatly packaged happy endings. I often leave some characters with a sense of hope, rather than tying everything up with pretty paper and a fancy bow.

Life is about struggle. My writing, more often than not, is about struggle, about searching for happiness, and, sometimes, about walking away from happiness as well.

S

Paul Greci said...

My stories often end with a ray of hope but not happiness.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I had to rewrite my ending and while it doesn't end with rainbows and unicorns, it's no King Lear either.

Endings are hard!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

The end Im working on is for the first in a series, so it needs to end and be complete enough in itself but also lead the way to more books to come. I like happy-but not like ribbon wrapped happy, I think the characters need to have suffered and lost something and be changed at the end, they may have lost something they'll never get back but there is closure. It is tricky to balance everything together.

Jessica said...

Oh yes, my endings are always hopeful, and usually happy. :-) I write romance! LOL And also, while I do tend to procrastinate on endings because I want to get them perfect, I'll usually know how I want the scene to go by mid-book. Usually, not always.

brian_ohio said...

I think of REM too, but 'Shiny Happy People' for some reason.

Anyway... endings are tough. It helps to know a little about the ending before you begin. It's tough to start a trip without some idea of where you're going. Sure... it may turn out perfect, but most likely you'll get lost, run out of gas, the car will break down, you'll pick up a hitchhiker and have your throat slashed just enough to severe your vocal chords but not kill you.

You know?

The hardest part is making it satisfying and BELIEVABLE. I hate it when a book ends and you're like 'Huh?'.

Hope the edits are going well.

ali said...

I'm with you Elana. I think my endings are okay, but they are not slam dunks. At least, I don't think so. But, like you, they don't end with "And then they lived happily ever after."

I loved what you said about why we hate to see the story end. I think you're totally 100% right.

Terresa said...

I'm a classic starter and not a finisher. I have a few novels left unfinished, as well as quilts, craft projects, and home decorating endeavors.

So, while I haven't yet written many endings yet, I know what I like to *read* in an ending: An ephiphany, knowing the character has reached some greater place within, through the struggle and adventures in the story. And that I, the reader, have, too.

Bish Denham said...

My endings aren't nescessarily all sunshine and roses, but they do end on an up beat, hopeful note because that's the kind of person I am; an idealistic realist.

Nevine said...

Most of my endings are not happy at all. I'm pretty much an optimist in real life but a pessimist with my fiction. I'm not sure why that is. But I do know that I always try to be the truest to myself that I can be in everything I write. I don't really think about how the reader will interpret one ending or the other. Don't know if that's good or bad, but it's just the way it is.

L.T. Elliot said...

I like to end with the feeling that the story ended "right" but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's happy.
I hear you about the end. I hate letting go.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I suppose it's hard to come up with an ending, because in real life we aren't used to endings. Even when death occurs, it comes to others, not us, we go on. If a relationship ends, we still go on. So, endings don't necessarily feel all that real. Good endings are hard to come by, after finishing some of the most enjoyable books, I find myself disappointed with how the author chooses to wrap things up.

VR Barkowski said...

If you're writing a fairy tale or a feel-good story, happily ever after is fine. But if you're trying to create living breathing characters that resonate, endings where everything is tied up neatly in a bow just aren't realistic. Happily ever after is an ideal, it doesn't happen in real life. While it's important to have resolution to the story's major conflict, for the story to feel real there has to be some sense of life going on. I agree, endings are hard. It means letting go of people we care about. It's not like we can call them next week and find out how they're getting along.

Jemi Fraser said...

I NEED happy endings. Not rainbows and pink clouds, but something with some sunshine :)

I've always been a bit of a sap - my parents stopped letting me watch Little House on the Prairie because I used to just sob at the story lines! Sad, but true :) Need my HEA.

Little Ms J said...

I always feel like I start a story well and end it marvelously. It is the junk in the middle I trip over.

Melanie Avila said...

I'm the same way -- I don't mind happy endings but I don't really like to write them. I'd say I write "okay" endings, where there's a hint that all could turn out okay, but it's still uncertain.

ElanaJ said...

Elizabeth, you are so right! We don't end! No wonder endings are so hard. Wow, new insight. I love that.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Some of my favorite stories have tragic ends, but so far, I tend to write happier endings. Not everything is perfect endings, but better than where we started endings.

Heather Zundel said...

I always have to have the end in mind before I ever write a word. It's what gets me to my goal of finishing and the discovery is in how I (and my characters) get there. I also am not one for completely "happily ever after" bow-tied endings. I like to make them happy (and the reader satisfied), but not happily ever after kind of happy.

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