Messed-up endings can leave a massive stain on an otherwise glorious story. No matter what epicness went down in the chapters before, a bad conclusion will leave a negative impression on readers that will make them less likely to pick up the story again. Since there are so many ways to destroy an ending, we’re going to turn the subject into a series!
*grins* I love series.
To start off, let’s talk about one of my ending pet peeves: long resolutions.
After the climax, characters usually have a few loose threads to tie up. After all, not everything is solved after the hero vanquishes his greatest foe. It’s a good idea to use some scenes at the end of a story to let characters work out their final problems, but only a few.
Following the massive confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist, a story’s tension and stakes fall. The MC has defeated the greatest obstacle she faced. Now that it’s over, readers are no longer looking forward to a future confrontation. There is less urgency to continue reading because what readers love is no longer in danger.
Think about it. Our whole story has been promising a final solution to the growing issue. The story has spent a ton of time building up to that final conflict. Once that conflict is over, there’s no time to build another problem that equally invests the reader without starting an entirely new story. Trying to drag out character interactions will seem aimless without an overarching plot.
Practically every rule in storytelling has an exception that a writer has managed to exploit. I’m sure some writers have pulled off good stories that continue after the stakes vanish and have even added a second climax. Tolkien did so with the Shire conflict at the end of The Return of the King.
Buuuuut we aren’t Tolkien. Few writers can get away with a second climax or an overly long resolution. Modern readers won’t be into it. They will (probably) still read to the end, but it will lower their opinion of the story because it felt slow.
After making readers wait so long for the climax of a story, they deserve a good ending. Though they will hate to say farewell, an appropriately-timed goodbye will leave them with a satisfactory feeling that will make the long journey to get there worth it.
What do you think about long resolutions? Have you read a long resolution you liked? Disliked? Why? What subjects would you like to see me cover in this new series?
The Introvert (A.K.A. Gabrielle Pollack)