So you can read my books

Thursday, January 24, 2013


One of the criticisms of the last LORD OF THE RING movie

by those who had not read the books

was that it appeared Peter Jackson couldn't decide where to end the movie

and tricked the audience into thinking they were watching the end, only to be moved to yet another false ending.

By the time the movie did end, many were grumbling about the whole experience.

Are we authors like that?

Do we linger too long, milking the afterglow of the story. Or do we end too abruptly once the crisis is averted or overcome?

Many teachers of creative writing stress not to begin writing until you have the ending clearly in mind

so that you can head to it with skillful foreshadowing and firm precision, not meandering until the end just comes to you.

I think that approach also helps you to know when to begin.

If you know the ending with its transformation of the main character, then you know where to start your story ...

and you get a sense of how to bring your protagonist to his destination.

What mood do you want the reader to leave your novel holding in his heart?

Hope. Despair. Laughter. Resolve in the face of dissolution.

Or a mix of all of the above?

I. Keep Your Characters in Character

    Don't force actions or words from your characters just because it will provide a nice "Hollywood" ending.

II. Explosions Just Might Blow Up Your Book

    Make your ending dramatic by giving it impactful meaning for your protagonist.  The most impact is inner, not outer, explosions.
III. The Ending Serves the Plot

     The ending is where you bring the spotlight to all the reasons you wrote the story in the first place.

IV. The ending  is ...

         Based on two choices – outcome and judgment.

         The four possible endings of any novel plot are as follows:

1. Comedy (happy ending):

 the protagonist achieves the goal or solves the problem, and his success turns out to be a good thing.

2. Tragedy:

the protagonist fails to achieve the goal, and his failure is a bad thing.

3. Tragi-comedy (Personal Triumph):

 the protagonist fails to achieve the goal, but his failure turns out to be a good thing.

4. Comi-tragedy (Personal Tragedy):

   the protagonist achieves his goal, but his success turns out to be a bad thing.

{King Midas achieves his Goal of turning everything in his house into solid gold.  But if that includes his beloved daughter, we would judge his success as bad.}

You may want to play with all four options in your imagination for some time before deciding what type of ending feels right for your novel.

V. The ending flows from character development:

1. At the climax of a Comedy (in the Ancient Greek sense), the main character achieves success by either ...

- sticking with a good trait/behaviour
- giving up a bad one
- taking on a good one

(E.g. Harry Potter succeeds in defeating Voldemort because he sticks with his habit of putting others' lives ahead of his own.)

2. At the climax of a Tragedy, the main character fails because he either...

- sticks with a bad trait/behaviour
- gives up a good one
- takes on a bad one

(E.g. Macbeth fails to truly embody the role of king and establish a dynasty because he becomes a habitual murderer and betrayer, making his subjects want to depose him.)

3. At the climax of a Tragi-comedy, the main character fails to achieve his goal, yet it turns out to be a good thing because he either...

- sticks with a good trait/behaviour
- gives up a bad one
- takes on a good one

(E.g. In the science fiction movie, Bladerunner, the main character fails in his mission to “terminate” all the artificial people on earth, because he develops compassion for them – which is a good thing.)

4. At the climax of a Comi-tragedy, the main character achieves success, yet it turns out to be a bad thing because he either...

- sticks with a bad trait/behaviour
- gives up a good one
- takes on a bad one

(E.g. In Romeo and Juliet, the goal of ending the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues is achieved, but Romeo's unwillingness to give up his love for Juliet ends in both their deaths.
I hope this helps in some small way.


  1. There should always be character development and change at the end of the book.
    Mine probably contain a dual ending - the giant crisis ending followed by the character ending.
    And I had no problem with the way LOTR ended.

  2. Alex:
    Your dual ending is usually the best way. When the fur is flying, reflection is put on the back burner, right? :-)

    At the end of RETURN OF THE KING in the theater, I kept seeing several poor couples start to get up only to sit back down three different times. If you were unaware of the book, the multiple endings could throw you. (And it was a long movie - I am sure the bathroom was beckoning some people, too~)

  3. Great summary. I think it can be tempting to give too much... tie up all the ends. I also have been known to fall in love with a line and end there, even if the ending needed more meat. I think the goal for me is 'satisfaction'. A last reflection or action that somehow signifies things are different now. If it can be done humorously, that's a bonus.

  4. Bladerunner and Romeo and Juliet, great examples. Love them both. Winning/Success isn't always what we expect it to be. We may win, but at what cost?

    I try to keep in mind the end result when writing, as I plan first and adjust as necessary as I go. Great tips reminding us that structure is important. Thanks, Roland.

  5. Hart:
    What did Mickey Spilliane say?

    Your beginning convinces the reader to read your book; the ending convinces him to read your next one.

    Humor is what keeps me re-reading a book. :-)

    Sometimes as Bane told Bruce Wayne: Victory can defeat us. Wasn't BLADERUNNER a source of so many other movies and novels? I think both you and I have the same theories about writing. :-)

  6. i know where to end a story... leave them wanting more. so i tell you...