This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Something writers worry about is how to end their books. Readers get very cross with us sometimes! Thing is, some readers like neat endings and others like everything to be more mysterious. What do you think? What do you like or not like about types of endings?

I've made a poll for you here - please vote! And (or) just comment in the comments section below.

By the way, a very nice person in contact with schools in Australia, told me that she knows several classes who enjoy this blog, but that they aren't able to comment because of school internet policy. I quite understand and I just love the idea that you're out there reading this. So, helloooooo!


Catt said...

I think sometimes what a reader ideally wants in an ending isn't the best suited of endings. I mean, perhaps sometimes one wants a happy ending for a couple, but it's so unrealistic it couldn't work.

Personally, I like the main plot of the book wrapped up, but somemstery of sorts too, because in my mind there is more to the lives of the characters pre and post novel. Like, in, for example, errm.....The Very Hungry Caterpillar. That caterpillar had a life before he ate through all those goodies, so the story for us, thew reader, begins after a story has already occured. We are getting one story of a hundred stories which make up a characters lifetime. But Also, he bcomes a beautiful butterfly. That butterfly then, presumably, goes on to live a life, but we know not of that life, which, potentially, could be a story too. So we know what he ate and how he dealt with his stomach ache, how he became a butterfly, but the mystery was left as we don't know of his life as a butterfly.

Does this make sense at all? Early night rambling. So yeah, BASICALLY *will shut up soon*, wrap up what's happened, but let us think the characters live a life beyond the last chapter.

FlossieT said...

I've voted in favour of leaving loose ends. This is mainly because, as a reader, if I've loved a book, I want to carry on living with the characters long after I've closed it. I may no longer obsessively fanfic and school-project my way through that process, but I don't really want them all married off and tidied up.

Also, there is nothing worse than a *too*-neat ending. I absolutely loved what The Secret Scripture did with its investigation of the nature of history, memory and imagination - right up until he very, very nearly ruined it all 30 pages from the end with a veritable Harrods-gift-wrap of a neat bow. (I only forgave him because the rest of it was so very wonderful.)

For a really masterful handling of ambiguity at the end, see Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog. Still a mystery to me why it didn't make the Booker shortlist. Wonderful book.

catdownunder said...

You have Spike running around in circles because you have two different potential endings. I told him it is not really like that at all because the book ends on page 277. He is now thinking about this - and whether there is really an ending at all.
Life does not have neat endings but it really does have to be up to the author. It is however much more important to have an ending for a picture book than for YA!

Linda Strachan said...

I find I'm never quite sure what the ending will be until I get there. The characters and the story often dictate the ending. But I always like to leave a book with a bit of hope for the future of the characters.

I think one of the most important things is not to cheat the reader or patronise them. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a book and finding that the author has made everything turn out perfect for the characters when it is plainly obvious that this is totally unrealistic.

litrefs said...

Here's some bookwork, FYI

According to "The Narrative Modes" by D.S. Brewer (where I also got the statistics from) "Endings are even more various and harder to classify. They are also apparently harder to write well". Here are the statistics for endings: 31% speech, 10% ironic (in novels the percentage is lower), 8% main character dies, 7% a symbolic final event (a door closing, a journey ends, etc), 5% a question, 4% "author comment", 1% wedding (in novels the percentage is far higher). Over 15% end with a sentence of 5 words or less.

After Poe, surprize endings became popular and influential - "Though surprise endings as not ... numerically dominant in the whole of any writer's work until O.Henry, the effect of the surprise endings on short-story structure and on the popularity of the form extended beyond the actual number of examples". The importance of the ending can be so strong that it affects the shape of the whole story. Even authors who don't exclusively use twist-endings may be very end-oriented in their writing procedures - "If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it" Katherine Anne Porter (in Writers at Work: "The Paris Review Interviews", p.151)

As the 20th century progressed, the trend was not to end with an explicit authorial comment (which is one reason why stories more often end in speech nowadays), and not to link the start too tightly to the ending. Increasingly, endings are "open" rather than "closed". William Gibson's "Neuromancer" ends with a section entitled "Coda: Departure and Arrival" which sums up what many endings do - some mysteries are solved, but others are begun.

Sally Zigmond said...

I dislike cut and dried endings but then again I absolutely loathe endings that are so inconclusive that nothing makes sense (I've just read one of those and it's sooooo irritating.) I like endings to be satisfying but with room for my own imagination to keep the story going in my head. Easy, eh?