My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

Book Ending Crankerdom

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I’ve basically hated the endings of the last few books I’ve read, and I am cranky about it. Like being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic cranky. Like not having eaten in five hours cranky. Like being stuck in traffic WHILE also being hungry hangry cranky. I don’t know what your maximum capacity for crankerdom is, but I’m just about hitting the ceiling on mine.

Let me clarify my stance on endings. I don’t need them to be happy. I’m actually not the number one fan of happy endings, because with the kinds of complicated stories I kind of gravitate towards, a truly happy ending, more often than not, feels oversimplified and tacked on.  I don’t want all the strings hanging loose at the end, but I equally don’t want all those strings tied up into neat and pretty birthday package bows. I don’t live in a world of bows (or at least, I don’t live in a world that’s ONLY bows) and I want to see the irony and tragedy of life reflected on the page in a way that’s at once both familiar and surprising.

OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK FOR?!

Phew. Sorry guys. I told you.

Major crankerdom.

I don’t care that I’m basically the Veruca Salt of Readers, I want my mindblowing ending and I WANT IT NOW.

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So I don’t need my endings to be happy. What I do need them to be is satisfying. For some people, a satisfying ending is synonymous with a happy one. Fans of the romance genre expect their endings to be happy, and rightfully so. Happy endings are a component of that genre, fans feel cheated if they don’t get to see Fabio carry off his lady into the sunset at the end.

But romance isn’t my genre. My genre is literary fiction (and narrative non-fiction, and YA that skews literary, and, okay, I have a lot of genres, but the genre that this crankmonster rant-growling focuses on is literary fiction).

For me, a satisfying ending is when a dramatic question has been thoroughly explored throughout the course of a story (Can Anna Karenina find happiness with Count Vronsky? Can Peter Pan convince the Darling children to stay with him in Neverland? Can Hamlet avenge his father’s death?) and an answer that makes sense has been reached. Often the answer to the dramatic question in question is NO, because it was always SUPPOSED to be NO. It’s not the ending that feels GOOD, but it is the ending that feels RIGHT. If Anna ran off with Vronsky with no consequences, if the Darling children stayed in Neverland forever, if Hamlet was just like “To heck and an handbag with this Elsinore noise, I’m getting out of this crazy castle and maybe also Denmark,” yes, those characters might be happier, but we the readers wouldn’t. At least I as a reader wouldn’t. I’d feel like the honest, hard, sad ending was ripped off the end of the story and replaced with the tail of a different species of book. The story would no longer feel like its own animal. It would feel Frankensteined, and we all know what happened to Frankenstein (he murders a bunch of people and then moves to the North Pole).

That’s been my problem with the endings of the last few books I’ve read. They don’t feel like the inevitable endings of these stories, what I believe, within the world the author has set up in the beginning and developed in the middle, would really happen. They feel like “This book is about to end so I better wrap things up, okay, the conflict that had been going on the entire book is resolved and the characters that were in danger aren’t anymore and, okay, we’re done.”

These endings don’t work for ME, but I’ve talked to people about the books in question for whom these endings absolutely work. So I don’t know. Maybe I am just nothing but a cuddly as a cactus, charming as an eel Last Page Grinch. I might just be too picky about my endings. But usually, the reason I’m so hard on endings is because I loved the beginning/middle of the book in question SO GOSHDARN MUCH!

My real problem isn’t that I hate these endings, but that hating these endings makes me hate the entire book even if I loved the beginning and middle. And that’s not fair. An awesome two-thirds of the book shouldn’t lose to the lame last third, a rockstar three-quarters shouldn’t lose to the disappointing last quarter, but they do, for me, once I get pissed about an ending, it’s just so hard for me to love the beginning and middle in the same way.

What about you guys? How does a disappointing/unsatisfying affect you? Are you like “Cool, whatever, brah” or are you like “RRRRAAUUUUGGGGHHH!”

Tell a girl a story.

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Comments on: "Book Ending Crankerdom" (4)

  1. I’ve never written a book so I can’t be sure on this fact, but I am going to assume that writing the ending of your book is the hardest part. It’s impossible to make everyone happy and you will always leave someone wanting more. There’s also so many ways you can go about it. Should I leave it open to interpretation? Should I wrap everything up neatly? Should I cover every character and what happens to them or just the main ones?

    And I totally agree that a crappy ending can really ruin an entire book. I absolutely hate those rushed endings where I feel like the author wasn’t sure what to do but know she just needed to end the novel. That’s how I felt with Mockingjay and that’s why it’s my least favorite in the series.

    • You are so right, girl. Writing an ending to a story in pretty much a battle that can’t be won; every reader I think in some way or another has a vision or an idea of how they want the story to conclude, the path that the characters ultimately take. You definitely can’t please everyone. But it is a bit of a bummer when you read an amazing story (like Mockingjay–I am SO with you by the way! I HATED the ending of that book which makes me want to cry because the rest of the books in the series, as well as Mockingjay itself were sooooo good!) and it’s ruined by a terrible ending.

  2. I agree completely! A bad ending ruins the entire experience for me, no matter how enjoyable the rest of the book was. There have definitely been a few books with rushed endings or endings that just don’t “fit” that have irritated me long after the book was over. Princess Bride is the first one that comes to mind. I actually threw that book across the room when I finished it.
    It doesn’t have to be happy, but it does have to be good!

    • Right?! I realize that an author can’t please everyone, but to completely shatter our hearts with a half-hazard conclusion is just wrong on so many literary (and emotional and psychological) levels haha.

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