So you can read my books

Saturday, May 31, 2014


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

I thought the answer to that question might interest you.

I'm in the middle of THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT and putting down the seeds of its ending. 


The things about seeds ...

They are tiny but potent ... yet easily overlooked.  And that is what you want to surprise your reader with a no-cheat thread.

Don't you feel cheated by people or things appearing out of left field in the end of the novel you've been reading?

We must play fair with our readers.

Half of the fun of GREAT EXPECTATIONS was how the people and events in Pip's life were all interconnected.

The seeds had been sown fairly.

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. Well since you ask, I didn't like the way Casablanca ended, but it was much more dramatic than boy gets girl.

    I like endings that make me wish I were the heroine, or endings where I still have hope for the hero.

    I sometimes like an epilogue if the book isn't a series.

  2. D.G.:
    I have written an imaginary ending for CASABLANCA in my head where Rick and Ilsa are reunited after the war. I am a bit of a romantic. I even wrote a bit of that ending in my short story: PICTURE IMPERFECT.

    I like the same kind of endings as do you.

    I used prologues and epilogues in both RITES OF PASSAGE and ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM to add a sense of history to the tales. :-)

  3. D.G.:
    Oh, and with the clip you get to see Major Strasser who endlessly tries to kill Victor Standish in his adventures!

  4. Books don't have to end as I want them to - so long as no cheating or lazy short cuts are involved.
    The ending has to be congruent with the rest of the tale for me. And those books I don't want to end? Sometimes I flip them over and start again. Immediately.

  5. I went back and watched that last bit again, Roland. I do like that part with Strasser, although I envision him much nastier looking as an undead ghost.

    There's something about the French attitude that I can't help but like.

  6. Happy or sad, I prefer endings that fit the story, but most important, I don't want to be able to predict the ending after reading page one (or watching the first scene). The only exception is with the inventive retelling of a classic—no changing the ending allowed! I think endings should be organic, and for that reason, writers shouldn't concern themselves with whether the ending is what the readers are hoping for. That's writing to majority opinion, which usually means appealing to the lowest common denominator.

    VR Barkowski

  7. Elephant's Child:
    Sorry it's taken me so long to reply -- I've worked 11 hours today and driven 400 miles in pouring rain. I am exhausted!

    You begin books over again, too? We are kindred spirits. I am selfish enough to want a happy ending of sorts but, like you, one that grows naturally out of the story! :-)

    Alice would agree with you that Strasser is uglier undead and close up! :-)

    I loved Claude Rains in this movie.

    Yes, being able to predict a book or a movie from the first scene is truly irritating.

    One of my favorite renditions of THE THREE MUSKETTERS was the one with Keifer Sutherland since the plot was so different from the novel. :-)

    Upon reflection, I write the endings I want to read so I guess the readers' desires are not uppermost with me either, Oops!

  8. When I am reading a book, it has to grab me and pull me in immediately, with not a lot of lolly gagging around, with stupid details which don't have anything to do with the book or the characters. And I totally agree with you; the plot at the beginning HAS TOO come full circle at the ending. But too many secrets in a book are not good as the reader is wondering what is going to happen to so and so, and they get side tracked from the main event. I am reading 'The Mortal Instruments' series at the moment, and the books keep you coming back for more. A thread of thought, a mystery is woven into the first pages of the book and you have a gut feeling there is more to the scenario than meets the eye, which that particular event comes to fruition in the third book. The series are sensitive, they have a touch of innocence, yet otherworldly material which keeps the reader coming back. And yes, I hate ghost writers. They don't have the 'feel' of the original author. They turn books into mind candy which satisfies a reader for a while, but it's just not the same. This is why I was enraptured with J.K. Rowling; she was brilliant beyond words. She knew plot structure, second climaxes, and you fell in love with the characters with either a hate/love relationship for them, and the characterization was crisp and clear for each character.
    Your blog is great. I have learned some things about the structure of keeping the attention of the reader.
    Hope you like my comments.

    My brother, Troy Howell is both a children's book illustrator, since 1971, and also an author, one book being 'The Dragon of Cripple Creek'. He is so desirous of getting it made into a movie...but for this darned economy!
    Teresa in California

    THE GOOD GUY hooked me immediately and would not let me go -- so I know what you mean.

    THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS was a fantastic read, too.

    I truly liked your comment. It means a lot to me that you find some things of use in my posts.

    I dream of getting my own THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS (think THE HOBBIT meets Native American myth) into a Pixar movie -- so I understand the dream of your brother, Tony.

    Don't be a stranger now. :-)