Beginnings and endings are arguably the most important and memorable parts of our reading journeys. “How does it end?” is a familiar question when sharing what you’ve read or recommending a book to a friend.
In an effort to hone my writing skills, I’ve been paying closer attention to what I’m reading; studying what I love about an author’s style, thus inspiring my own writing. Readers are frequently able to anticipate twists and turns and to occasionally predict the ending, but primarily, we are willing participants in the suspension of belief and enjoy being taken on an adventure. We take the storytelling at face value and enjoy every moment without ‘reading’ too much in to it.
Admiring an author’s style and thoroughly enjoying the story only to be let down by the ending is disappointing. The relationship between writer and reader is symbiotic and there’s a sort of mutual trust that what has been promised will be delivered.
In the case of three recent reads, I was left feeling tricked by the endings. One novel in particular was the story of unrequited love and the couple having lived apart for twenty years. The story began as a journey to reunite. The reunion, to me, was the story I wanted to read but it went on to reveal only their pasts and all the while I was waiting for a reunion that never took place.
It was almost as though the author could not envision the reunion and that it was easier to omit it. In this story I was wishing the author had left the ending up to the reader – hinting at what the characters would do but leaving the reader to choose for themselves.
It’s been said that writers should keep their biggest surprises till the end and therefore tricky to anticipate. But they should be at least logical and realistic as well. A good surprise ending can be a lot of fun but these provoking endings definitely bombed in my opinion. A look back at two of the novels did reveal very subtle clues, foreshadowing what was to come. Maybe if I’d been paying closer attention or had been less invested in the outcome I’d anticipated, I might have figured it out.
I enjoy having loose ends wrapped up. Mark Twain called it “the marrying and the burying”. Readers are invested in the characters, the stories and the outcomes and will seek to read more from writers whose work they admire. Authors, please tell us everything we want to know.