The Coffee Girls (minus one) and I went shopping on Saturday—an impromptu trip that fell together quickly, and better organized than some of our planned adventures. I’m talking receiving a text at 9:45 asking if I wanted to go shopping and getting picked up an hour later! In that hour, I had to shower, get dressed, and print out my bookstore and craft store coupons–they call me the Coupon Queen. My motto is why pay full price when you can save with a coupon…but I digress. While we milled around the book/DVD section at Sam’s Club, one of the CGs picked up a movie and showed it to another CG since it had one of her favorite actors in it. We had discussed this movie when the trailers were first shown, but none of us had seen it yet. The CG who adores this actor said she refused to watch the movie because she had talked with friends who had seen the movie and were disappointed in the ending–the lead character dies in a shocking way. The other CG who brought the movie to our attention asked if the movie was any good, despite the ending. S.A. and I spoke up at the same time, “Doesn’t matter.” Have you ever read the ending of the book to see if you’re going to like how the story is resolved? I admit to being a second-generation ending reader. Sometimes I really try hard, especially while reading suspense, not to skip ahead because I like to guess who the villain is and if I’m right.
For this happily ever after girl, I want a promise of hope and a happily ever after. Since I’m investing my heart into this story and these characters, I want a heart-satisfying conclusion.
Quite a few years ago, I watched a movie based on a novel written by a popular secular author who writes love stories—notice I did not say romances—yes, there is a difference. I loved the movie’s storyline and adored the characters until I saw the ending. My heart had been ripped out. I sobbed and not in a good way. If I had been reading the book, I would’ve been flung across the room. I was that angry! I vowed never to read that author’s books or view movies based on that author’s books again.
Rachel Hauck, one of my writing pals and favorite authors, talked about letters she had received from readers who were disappointed in the ending of one of her books. She wrote the ending which best fit her story and the character’s arc. I wasn’t disappointed in the ending because there was a promise of hope that the characters would have their happily ever after. Endings affect the way a reader enjoys a novel. Some readers like me want the fairy tale and happily ever after. Other readers want a satisfying conclusion as long as the story is good. Of course, the novel genre influences the ending, too. Romances need to have a happily ever after where boy and girl fall in love and commit to a future. Women’s fiction novels need to have a satisfying ending for the character’s story arc. Suspense and mystery novels should have a solved crime at the end. The villain isn’t always caught, especially if the novel is part of a series, but most often, all loose ends should be tied up neatly for the reader. Fantasy and sci-fi novels should have a satisfying resolution to fit the story premise. Basically, the reader needs to have an answer for the proposed story question at the beginning of the novel.
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” ~Orson Welles
Share Your Thoughts: Do you read endings first? What kinds of endings upset you? For you writers, what genre do you write and how do you know when you’ve written a satisfying ending?