So you can read my books

Sunday, November 17, 2013


For all of you weary souls furiously typing your fingers into nubs on the end of your NaNoWriMo novels,

I thought the answer to that question might interest you.

I'm in the middle of DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE and putting down the seeds of its ending. 

I thought some of you might be thinking of how to wrap up your novel.  If you want an example of a great ending, look at Neil Gaiman's short film -- A DREAM OF FLYING:

An inept ending can kill your otherwise great book. So what questions do you need to ask about your ending?

1. Does it resolve the core conflict of the novel?
This is the big "this is what my book is about" question that your protagonist has spent the entire book trying to achieve.

 This is a biggie for series books, as there's a larger story arc across multiple books. But the goal in that one book needs to be resolved.

 2. Does it satisfy the major questions posed in the novel?

You don't have to tie up all the loose ends, but there are probably a few major things in the story readers will want to know answers to.

3. Is this the ending most readers are hoping for?

 We've all read books where we wanted one ending, but the book ended another way. Let down the reader, and you can bet she or he will not recommend your book.

4. Is your last line memorable, summing up your entire novel?

The trick of a good ending, of course, is that it must capture and equal everything that has gone before.

The line “He loved Big Brother” (from a novel that ends as masterfully as it begins) means very little until you understand exactly who Big Brother is. 

A great last line will have your reader putting down the book on her lap, murmuring, "Wow."  Guess what book she next recommends to her friends?

5.  A bad ending will unfailingly kill a good story. Is your ending such a one? 

 The ending is why the reader just invested their valuable time reading your story, and if it stinks, then they've wasted that time

6. Is there CHANGE at the end?

What makes a good ending hinges on the same things that make a good story. And the most important thing that makes a good story is change.

If nothing changes, nothing happens. And if nothing happens, you've got no story.

7. Do your characters save themselves or at least those they love?

If the U.S.S. Enterprise sails over the horizon to zap the bad guys in the nick of time. Say good-bye to repeat readers.

8. Resonance is the new Closure. Does your ending have it?

One symbol, or moment, from the beginning of the story is repeated at the end. By the time the story is done it means something else completely.

The ending echoes the beginning. It gives a sense that the story has come full circle.

9. Does it establish a new normal?

The heroes begin a new life. Sometimes the farm boy returns to the farm. Sometimes the farm boy becomes king. Sometimes the hero decides to set out on a new journey.

It's a chance to show how the character has been altered by the journey, and what they're going to do with that new knowledge.

10. What are your favorite kind of endings?

The best endings leave me full, and remain with me for days.

The best books make me wish they never end, but I know they have to.  Which is why I enjoy series books.

That's the sort of ending I like. What about you?


  1. Congrats on getting that far along in your new story, Roland.

    "The best books make me wish they never end, but I know they have to." I've always felt this way, and that's the reason that I usually will read all the works of authors I like.

    I like endings that have a bit of promise of more to come, but if the book is a tragedy and doesn't have a so-called happy ending, I want the MC to address that near the end of the book. I don't mind Epilogues for this reason.
    Hope you're having a good weekend!

  2. Check, check, and check! Excellent checklist. I never set out to repeat a moment or symbol, but it often works its way into the story.
    And congratulations on reaching the midway point of your next book.

  3. D.G.:
    Busy weekend as always! Whew! I like your kind of endings as well.

    I can live with a happy ending if it suggests adventures to come.

    Yes, the mid-point has hit me in the solar plexus of my muse. But I'm still swinging. :-) Good to see you back from your vacation. Hope it was great.

  4. Love that you take for granted there should be a larger story arc across multiple books in a series. I completely agree, but in traditional mysteries, there seldom is. More's the pity!

    Wonderful post, Roland, even though I'm not sure I agree with #3. I don't think you can write your ending for your audience. Sometimes the right ending isn't the one the audience wants. One example would be my first novel, LOL. Another would be Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games series. A lot of readers wanted a fairy tale ending for the characters, but dystopian societies don't end in fairy tales. Suzanne Collins knew this, was faithful to her theme, and chose truth on the page. I applaud her.

    The type of ending I like varies with the book, but resonance is key. When I close the cover, if I'm still imagining the lives of the characters, then the ending was successful. Happily ever afters never work for me.

    I have a question for you, Roland. Do you write with your ending in mind from page one, or do your stories sometimes play tricks and the ending you envisioned, turns into something else entirely?

    VR Barkowski

  5. I sometimes put away for a while a book just to delay the dreaded moment of its ending... It's hard to leave a universe in which I've lived so intensely...
    There are some great series, but lately I've seen only very poor ones. I always think about those that they should've stopped after the first book.
    As for No. 3, "Allegiant" has created quite a buzz because its ending has disappointed so many fans of the series. Nothing will console them and that shows in the increasing number of 1 star reviews on Amazon...

    This is a very interesting post, Roland! I'm sorry I haven't written any comments here lately. I hope you have a great week!

  6. VR:
    I didn't like the ending of MOCKINGJAY either. Something about it. I didn't want the fairy tale ending -- but the ending I got was off somehow.

    Jim Butcher is doing a fine arc with his HARRY DRESDEN character in his series of novels, while Dean Koontz seems to have taken a wrong turn with ODD THOMAS.

    I like your kind of endings -- where you are still imagining the lives of the characters after you've finished.

    I write both ways: sometimes with the end in mind all along -- sometimes with an ending that changes on me -- as Roger Zelazny said: trust your demon -- change that ending. :-)

    DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE is the constantly changing ending type of novel for me. Great comment.

    You, too? I do that with a TV series that I like that has not been renewed -- I postpone watching that last episode or read that last chapter. :-)

    I'm glad you commented now. You are always missed.