So you can read my books

Friday, April 29, 2011

Z is for ENDINGS_Where to put the period, why, and how.

To every beginning there is an ending.

But not always ...

In my worldview, the soul has a beginning but no true ending. Perhaps it has a final destination, yet no ending but eternity.

What did Woody Allen say?

Eternity is awfully long ... especially towards the end.

But for novels there has to be an ending. But where?

Remember the multiple "endings" to the movie, RETURN OF THE KING. I was with my date who kept starting to get up scene after scene. Peter Jackson just didn't seem to want to end his epic tale.

Of course those of us who had read the book knew what the true ending would be. But most in the audience hadn't read the book.

And like my date, they were frustrated and a bit miffed at Peter for misleading them scene after scene.

Not unlike an old car that just wouldn't stop after the key is turned off.

Finally, the epic ends with the closing of the door to Sam's home. But it was too late. Most felt dissatisfied at the false endings.

Take John Ford's classic Western, THE SEARCHERS.

It, too, ends with the closing of a home's door -- but the perspective is switched. The audience sees from the inside out to the figure of John Wayne beyond.

A cover story in New York magazine called it the most influential movie in American history.

The opening and closing shots, of Ethan arriving and leaving,

framed in a doorway. The poignancy with which he stands alone at the door,

one hand on the opposite elbow (his arm having been wounded by an arrow earlier in the film),

forgotten for a moment after delivering Debbie home. These shots are among the treasures of the cinema.

Ethan (John Wayne) cannot enter the home which represents civilization, home, and forgiveness. He is too wounded (hence the gesture of holding his formerly wounded arm.)

Ethan's story is the tragedy of the loner : we see Ethan at the end of the film, as we saw him at its beginning : alone, lonely, haunted by the past, and deeply wounded.

John Ford had this ending in mind when he filmed the beginning. I believe to have a truly focused novel, we as authors should have the ending in view from the very start of our story. Doing so provides that emotional impact of the closing lines which touches the reader's head as well as heart.

Of course, there are different ways to do that :

Snipping all the loose ends neatly.

Bracketing the novel with book-end type scenes as Ford did with THE SEARCHERS.

Or ending with a cliff-hanger, drawing the reader into an anxious anticipation for the next chapter in an on-going story -- as life is on-going.

How do you decide when to end your novel and why?


  1. Roland, an excellent post! THE SEARCHERS was a brilliant movie - John Wayne at his best. The ending is so important, it has to satisfy the reader and draw them back for the next book as well.

    Judy, South Africa

  2. Judy :
    Good to see you here again. I pray that things are healing slowly for you.

    And yes, John Wayne was at his best in THE SEARCHERS. You're right - the ending is what will bring your readers to the next book. Thanks for commenting, Roland

  3. Funny you should write about a cowboy today.

    As to endings. It might be strange, but I know the end of my novel before I even write it. Then I just fill in the blanks.

    I miss John Wayne and Yul Brenner.

  4. I am the bracket-type storyteller who MUST have things in a neat box. For my story, I wanted the reader to see my MC as powerful and full of promise, but as the tale unfolds you see that he is quite the opposite - destitute and illiterate.

    In the end, when all is said and done, when he reaches for the stars; the last and only memory of his mom and dad; you see him as a powerful boy, full of promise, but above all else...hopeful.

    I think it is wise to see the ending before you write the beginning. You are able to craft the tale so much better and with great impact. Because, as it turns out, there can be no beginning without an end, but there can be an end without a beginning.

  5. HI, Roland,

    An inspired post. Yes, ending are incredibly important. In my first novel, I knew exactly how and when to end. I wrapped up the plot but left an opening for the EVIL ONE to return and cause more mayhem.

    You know the premise. So the ending lined up for the next book in the series.

  6. I'm still learning how to tie everything together but I find I'm more satisfied with the things that circle around back to the beginning. Have a fairy great Friday Roland- or is it Saturday for you? either way have a good day!

  7. Endings are hard. I think it's easy to get so wrapped up in your story that you don't want it to end, whether you're a writer or a director. The end means your done with the safe space of your story and you have to move on to the difficulty of starting a new ones. But that would be a different topics at a different end of the alphabet "B" for beginnings. Have a great weekend.

  8. Wendy :
    I have always loved Palidin. And I begin each chapter of RITES and ADRIFT with a quote found in the pages following just as each episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL started with a quote of the adventure following. Thanks again for such a great book trailer.

    T.D. :
    I am a cliff-hanger/bracket kind of writer myself. In all the madness of these past weeks, I have lost your address. Could you please re-send it so that I can send you your autographed book?

    Michael :
    We agree (as we usually do) -- without a great ending, the book just fizzles. Ouch. Have a great birthday, Roland

    It's still a fairy nice Friday for me, Summer. And thanks for commenting. I've missed you. Roland

    Johanna :
    Ah, but in life, the end always seems in some way to promise a new beginning of some sort, doesn't it? I always look forward to your comments, Roland

  9. You do know how to say it my friend! I have missed you. This is not the end but the beginning I hope of a beautiful friendship!

  10. ...arguably Wayne's best performance!
    Honestly, I waged a seemingly unending battle with my ending...lasting more than I'm willing to admit. Figured it out eventually, but wow...what a struggle!
    Enjoy your weekend, Roland.


  11. Siv :
    I've missed you, too. I plan to stick around, The Father willing! I hope this is a continuation of a beautiful friendship, as well.

    Elliot :
    Endings are hard often for me, too. Sometimes the ending will occur to me at the inspiration part of coming up with the novel -- and I have to write the story that leads up to the ending, Roland

  12. All I know for certain is I'm a firm believer in the never-ending story. You may get hope, but you will never get a happily ever after out of *my* pen.

  13. Roland, we did it! Congratulations! I have an award for you!!

  14. VR :
    You and me both. Life is never-ending so should our books be in a sense of events still going on despite a crisis averted or managed.

    Elizabeth :
    I really didn't do all of the challenge due to crises and work. But thank you for the beautiful award anyway, Roland

  15. Endings are the hardest part of everything. Saying goodbye, leaving a home, closing a much enjoyed book. But this ending has come with a sigh of relief. I've loved the A to Z and I've met some lovely bloggers along the way but I'm glad it's over.

    And congratulations for getting to the end of the A to Z Challenge!

  16. Rosalind :
    Yes, a month long challenge is a bit much -- especially with the other challenges life usually throws at us in the course of any 30 days. Glad to have met you and so many others. Roland

  17. I have to agree with you, there is no true ending, only the circle of life. In writing I end where the characters resolve the major problem in the story. Their story continues of course but that is left to the readers imagination.

  18. I was a bit disappointed in the HP part I movie. It left out all the cool scenes, and downplayed the intensity of the stuff they left in. Well, that's a movie for you . .

    The second HP looks exciting. I may have to read the novel again before the release. I need Hermione's time turner :)

    Excellent work on the book trailer. It is fitting for the novel. I'm about half way through; its frustrating not to be able to sit and read it until I'm done.

    In my trilogy, I had to leave each of the first two with an enticing ending, but also make it feel complete for the story itself. Not sure I did that in the first novel - I had an end, then a sort of epilogue . .

    Have a great weekend Roland.


  19. Great post. (= I love John Wayne to death. Sigh.

    I felt the same way about the LotR movie--ahhhh. After awhile it just drove me crazy. Like a good sneeze that gets interrupted several time. Just be done already! Haha!

    One of my WIPs has a "book end" beginning and end... but now in edits that may change.

    Sometimes for me the ending is much clearer that the beginning.

  20. Sometimes, I see the ending....and then I begin. I just saw a couple hours ago that you'd released ANOTHER Sam book!!!

    Talked about it on my post :)

  21. Heather :
    Basically I end the same way you do : the crises dealt with while life goes on. Thanks for visiting.

    Donna :
    I was let down by part one of DEATHLY HALLOWS as well. It just seemed static somehow.

    Wendy deserves all the credit for the book trailer. I am greatly impressed with her artistry and talent.

    I'm glad you're interested enough in RITES to want to keep on reading.

    Endings have to fit the novel. And trilogies are hard to write.

    I've had such a grim week that this weekend will just be about healing!! Have a great one yourself, Roland

    Jo :
    Often I am like you, I have a clear vision of the ending -- then I work backwards -- as with THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH.

    And I am a huge John Wayne myself!

    WordsCrafter :
    Thanks for the shout-out and link for RITES OF PASSAGE and ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM. It meant a lot to me, Roland

  22. Hi Roland. This is a great post, and it is strange when you keep thinking a movie has ended and even begin to stand up to bet the rush, just to have another scene start.

    Great news I read on Becky's blog this morning with all your new releaes/trailers. Go Roland! I will be getting them asap.

    I've tried a gazillion times to refollow but there's something about your google friend list my computer doesn't agree with. Has anyone else complained? I've been trying to refollow ever since the start of the challenge.

    Last day of the challenge. You didn't get to read any of my challenge posts I don't think but those who did seemed to enjoy them.

    All the best, writerly friend.


  23. Denise :
    I read several of your Byronic hero posts. I even commented twice I believe.

    This past month has been a maelstrom of grief, work, and preparation for the Sci Fi convention which I spoke at for a whole weekend -- plus working a nightmarish schedule to repay my supervisor for letting me off the weekend of the convention.

    No one else has complained, but I do not seem to be getting as many followers as I have in the past. Blogger may not like my blog for some arcane reason.

    I know two people said they wrote reviews for THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS on Amazon days ago, but neither one has shown up.

    Thanks for planning to buy RITES and ADRIFT. I think you will enjoy them. But then I'm prejudiced! LOL.