Landing the dismount (in other words, writing a good ending)

Hello everyone! I’m back! I hope you’ll forgive the prolonged absence from the blogsophere. Life has been crazy! I’ve been traveling, attempting to revise, and taking classes. Hopefully I will have some exciting things to share with all of you very soon!

Since I last blogged, I met with my critique group, got a lot of feedback, and went to a craft seminar on character hosted by the awesome Jennifer Egan, all of which have helped me get to the point where I’m ready to strongly and heavily revise my manuscript. That’s exciting, of course, but I can’t help but mull over some of my feedback, particularly as it pertains to the ending of my novel. It seems these days that endings get a lot of attention and thanks to the free flowing, opinion spewing nature of the internet, people can express how they feel about it and that puts a lot of pressure on the ones coming up with the finale.

Two high profile endings lit up my Twitter feed; the series finale of Breaking Bad and the conclusion to the Divergent trilogy, Allegiant. Both of them had very vocal detractors (it ended too happily! why did so-and-so have to die! it wasn’t artful enough!) but I personally was a big fan of both. I thought the endings were wonderful apexes of the themes in each series; they were executed well with a sense of conclusion, even if it wasn’t necessarily happy go lucky (but when you live in dystopian Chicago or run a meth empire, what is a happy ending? Is that even possible?) .

I love the debate about endings though, because it definitely sparks some thoughts about them. As readers, do we want happy endings? Do we just want them to be conclusive? When is it okay to have an ending that invites interpretation? What makes an ending bad? Deus ex machina? When it’s too cheesy or clichéd? So many options! I could go on for days.

Of course, all this chatter makes me zero in on my own work. One of the universal critiques I got was that the ending was too quick, too simple, and the characters didn’t get to that conclusion by themselves. It’s like I, the author, just plucked them from one point and dropped them into the ending. Personally, deus ex machina sometimes bothers me, so I basically turned out to be my own pet peeve. This is why you have critique groups, people.

I’ll meditate some more on how to end the story. Maybe I’ll just make the end scene longer, more potent, and chock full of conflict. Maybe I’ll scrap it and write a new one. The ending is important. It’s import to stick the dismount, because that’s where the story packs punch, that’s what readers remember, and it’s what delivers the final thought for the book. I have two pretty good examples to follow.

Okay, enough of me wallowing on how to edit my novel. In the meantime, you should let me know what YOU think of endings. You can leave a comment below, tweet me, Facebook me, and stalk my Tumblr. Like most writers on a deadline, I crave distraction. But, I should probably just go edit! I’ll be back soon I hope. Until then, I’m out.

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