Thursday, April 30, 2009

Authors: Your Endings?

In yesterday's discussion, people expressed interest in discussing endings in general instead of how you feel about an ending. So, I mean, what is my blog but a forum for these discussions? :)

Authors, if you would, could you answer a few questions? (And readers, too, if any of these apply to you.) Like:

Do you know how things will go before you start writing? If not, how many times do you write an ending before it sticks?

Do you prefer ambiguous endings, cliffhanger endings, twisty endings, or tell-all endings? Why?

How hard is it to write the Final Chapter, from your writing fiend perspective?

...anything else?


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I outline every book before I begin writing, so I generally know how the story will end. I might adjust it slightly, taking the character's personality and the natural flow of the story, but the original idea is the one that sticks.

And the final chapter is only hard in that I know I am about to close the book (so to speak) on the lives of my characters! By the final chapter, I've grown attached to them and it's tough to say goodbye.

L. Diane Wolfe

Malinda Lo said...

With my forthcoming book, ASH, I knew what the ending would be because it's a retelling of Cinderella. :) So -- it would be a happy ending! The first time I wrote it, it was all wrong. Really wrong. But in my second or third draft I sat back and really thought about how I would want a love story to end -- and after I saw that scene in my head, I wrote it down. It's mostly that scene now, except for a key word at the end that a friend of mine suggested after reading it.

With the book I'm writing now, I am approaching the ending, and though I have a vague idea of what I want to happen, I know it'll change as I write through toward it. I'm guessing the answers you'll get to this question will vary with every book and every writer. :) But it will be great to hear the variations!

Mandy Hubbard said...

Whether I know how it will end varies from book to book. I used to be 100% fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but as I progress as a writer I learn the value of prewriting, and increasingly, I know how it will end before I start. PRADA & PREJUDICE, I had no clue, and the first ending got scrapped and I rewrote it completely, to be the opposite of the first ending.

As a reader I prefer tell-all, almost-but-not-quite-as-perfect-as-disney type endings. As a writer, I like all kinds of endings, except the cliffhanger.

I dont like cliffhangers in ANY situation. I hate them.

And I think writing the last chapter is super fun and exciting. :-)

Saundra Mitchell said...

When I sit down to write, I know vaguely where I want the characters to be when I'm done. But I don't know how they're getting there, or what detours might arise, so I don't know what happens until I get to THE END.

I'm really big on a thoughtful ending- not happy, not sad, but hopefully, honest and contemplative. With a nice strong last line. I hope!

A.S. King said...

I wing my books. I start with an idea or a character--something small--and I start writing. I never know how the book will end. I just wrote the last chapters of a book yesterday, and only figured out the end the night before. Sometimes I only figure the end out as it comes out of my fingers.

I never have an ending intention, really, (twisty/ambiguous/tell-all) except that it fit the overall tone of the book.

On a whole, I prefer endings that feel like an uplifting completion, but don't beat readers over the head with closure details. And a good last line.

Anonymous said...

Having just finished another ms recently, this is all fresh in my mind. The oddest thing is, I usually know the entire story when I sit down to write it -- strung like storyboard scenes in my head -- so that there are still surprises lurking there, but I know enough to know the end...but I usually have to rewrite the beginning afterwards!

I like "satisfying" endings that may either be happy or sad, but are "complete" in a way that addresses the characters' motivations and unanswered questions, keeping in mind the same is true for readers, too. But I have to admit, I like happy endings for tragic characters who have been soaked in pain, strife and angst first. What can I say? These are the darlings who *survive*!

The best endings are the ones that make me want to read the book all over again (A.S. King's DUST OF 100 DOGS qualifies!)

Luisa Plaja said...

I love writing endings. They're my favourite part to write, but I never have any idea of what they'll be until I get there. I don't tend to rewrite my endings, but I do often go back and rewrite previous scenes to make the endings fit better.

Donna (Bites) said...

When I write I know where I want my story to go but I never write for a particular ending in mind. That'll end up shaping my story and writing for a particular ending that I want doesn't always equate to how the book should end. I find beginnings much more difficult to write than endings. And I find it hard not to continue on past the ending of the story! Sometmes the characters just won't shut up.

R.J. Anderson said...

Before writing a book I make sure I have a reasonably clear idea where things will stand at the end of the book -- who lives and dies, which side wins the battle, and so on. The finer details of how things are resolved, however, tend to emerge along the way.

I like endings that aren't too abrupt but give the reader a sense of resolution, a little winding-down after whatever big action or crisis has taken place. I've been annoyed by other books in the past that cut everything off suddenly as soon as the climax is over -- I need to catch my breath and ease out of the story, not be tossed out of it on my ear.

Amee said...

As a reader I like happy endings. I also loove epilogues that tie everything together and give a peek into the characters' futures. Cliffhangers are okay as long as more books are planned. If it's cliffhanger-like and a standalone? I hate that!

So happy endings and throw in an epilogue for good measure. :)

Anonymous said...

When I get ideas, I usually see the entire story in my head, like a movie, with a vague ending. Usually as I'm writing, there are slight changes made, so it can fit the characters, but what I see in my head is typically what ends up on paper.
And for books, if it's a stand-alone, definitely something that pretty much explains everything and maybe even makes you stop and think (like The Truth About Forever). NO cliffhangers or open endings, where the reader is meant to "assume" the ending, or "figure it out" herself (like The Giver. It was so intense and then...I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't read it, but let me just say: yuck.)

And...when I get to the end of a book, reading or writing it, I get chills. It sounds kind of stupid, I know, but that's how it's always been for me--good books and bad ones alike.

Jen said...

Do you prefer ambiguous endings, cliffhanger endings, twisty endings, or tell-all endings? Why?

Depends on the book, I really like ambiguous endings in distopic books (a la The Giver, but I hate them everywhere else. Also I like really twisty, long, many sequel-ed magic books. And I want tell all for chick lit. And for anything in between and in urban fantasy, I like them balanced(the City of Glass did this perfectly)

Samira Hodges said...

I also always know how my endings will turn out. I'm a fan of happy endings and surprise endings (my debut novel has a bit of a surprise ending). For the most part, when the idea for a novel forms in my head, it includes the ending, because to me, that's the best (and most important) part. A book with a bad ending tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth too. Thanks for the discussion Steph!

Leigh Purtill said...

I outline from beginning to end so I know where I'm going, altho things do change in the middle which sometimes get reflected in the end. Endings are easy to write; satisfying ones are next to impossible. And sometimes what the writer thinks is a great ending is hated by the reader! I can't tell you the number of times I read a Goodreads or B&N review of my first book, in particular, in which the reader claims to have loved everything but the ending of it! LOL!

As a writer, I enjoy wrap-up endings, the ones that sort of explain things so the reader goes, "Ah, I get it." I save the twist endings for my short stories, and I try really really hard not to write anything that simply ends. I'm not crazy about those - unless handled well, they usually feel pseudo-literary to me. And I agree with Mandy about cliffhanger endings - don't like 'em much as a reader. But as a writer...;)

Heather S. Ingemar said...

Sometimes, I know how it's all going to end within the first couple paragraphs.

Other times, I don't. (And usually, it's far more exciting to discover it all as I go! :)

As for the type of ending, I find it really depends on the tone of the story, and if it's part of a series or not. But really? I prefer something kind of like a "tell-all" ending, only it doesn't tell ALL the picky little details, but is open enough that it leaves a bit to the imagination.


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