The importance of endings

Studious Saturday

A few months ago I posted my feelings on the influence of opening lines and catchy beginnings and today I wanted to discuss the importance of endings, an aspect which I find can completely change my feelings towards a book, for better or worse.

Unexpected twists

There is something so captivating about stumbling upon a twist that you never saw coming. If executed well it is my favourite writing mechanism in thrillers as it is always surprising and shocking which I feel is the most crucial aspect of mysteries. Many authors choose to throw in twists within the middle of the plot however I always find that some of the best twists are those which the author delivers with precision, ease and skill towards the end of the book.

Bittersweet phase out

Perhaps one of my least favourite types of endings are those in contemporary fiction and romance where the author decides to tie up any lose ends by summarising the events that occurred throughout the book. It is often concluded by the main character sitting in a park/their house/a train station or any other main location, staring off into the distance after they have ended their relationship or someone close to them has died. Although I enjoy delving into the characters’ mind and exploring their emotions, I find these endings repetitive and exaggerated and often feel like the plot slowly drifts away until it reaches the last mediocre sentence. I am often left feeling disappointed with these endings, even though the story line until that point may have been interesting.

Revelations and discoveries

In Historical Fiction which switches from past to present day, authors often try to link the main characters and events but it is only towards the end where their stories merge. It is at this point that the reader understands the significance of their existance as many anecdotes are shared and discoveries made, often through a face-to-face encounter. This type of ending can be very powerful and moving, especially if the main character has been through many obstacles to arrive at this point. It is also very difficult to keep the suspense until the last few chapters and few authors manage to handle this well so I am usually impressed with these kind of endings.

Cliffhangers

To put it simply, cliffhangers as endings can make or break a book. I personally believe that it can be an effective way to encourage the reader to continue reading the next book in the series however I do not understand why many authors decide to end a book cliffhanger style in a standalone book if there is no follow-up. I end up frustrated and upset that I invested so much time in the book and connected with the characters to then read a few closing lines that do not reach any conclusion. However, if there is a sure way to keep the reader interested in a series it is definitely through a cliffhanger and I have read several series where the author uses this mechanism well, for example the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling and the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer, both of which made me rush to buy the following book in the series as soon as I had read the previous one.

Question time

Which type of ending do you enjoy and think is most effective?

15 thoughts on “The importance of endings

  1. A lot of great points, Darina. A good ending is extremely important to me and it does have a big say in my overall thoughts on a book. A surprising twist is a very effective way and I can think of several examples, but any ending has to be plausible in relation to the rest of the story.
    I completely agree that cliffhangers or abrupt endings do not belong in standalone books, as we have discussed before! 🙂

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  2. That’s a great post. Honestly, I think as long as the ending fits the story – it’s fine with me. I don’t mind cliffhangers in a series, they make me more eager to pick up the next book. Some plot twists ending I’ve read were honestly great, but I feel like thriller writers rely on them too much. I think open endings are the worst, as they’re not really endings. I guess I like closure .

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you that the ending needs to fit the story and sometimes an ending comes as completely unexpected and unnatural to what has just happened which is disappointing. And you are very right that plot twist endings are becoming more and more common in thrillers, I guess there are also many readers who enjoy them but I find them very hit or miss.

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  3. Brilliant post!
    I like my endings to tie lose ends and I prefer them not to be too open. I find it nice to have a good idea of where the protagonists stand after following them during a full book! An ending can totally change my mind about a novel. As it’s the last thing I read, the final feeling is going to stay with me and taint the full story.

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  4. For me, plot twist endings are usually a miss. I rarely find a book with a shocking twist at the end that I didn’t see coming or that isn’t unnecessarily gratuitous. I agree with your points in the bittersweet endings section a lot! I don’t really like the way things are wrapped up that quick but sad way. I think I prefer that kind of ending to one where everything is wrapped up in unrealistically optimistic ways, though, especially if that just isn’t the tone of the rest of the book.

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