Thursday, January 30, 2014

The end is near...

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Workshop Leader


I hate book endings. Seriously don't remember a single book I've ever read when I got to the end and said, "Wow, what a beautiful/wonderful/smart way to end this story." Granted, I've gotten to the end of a few books and said, "Thank God, that's over."

This includes my own books. Never satisfied with the last sentence, and I even feel iffy about the last chapter. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to be teaching some workshops at the Southern California Writer's Conference in San Diego, and someday I'd love to teach a course in how to write a spectacular ending.

Once I learn how to do it.

I'm more okay-ish with the wrap-up statement that says the book is over. I read one book that took place over New Year's festivities that ended with the line, "This was going to be a great year," and that wasn't too bad. The whole premise of the book was that the previous year was ending rather badly, what with romantic break-ups and murder and mayhem, so solving the murder and getting a new boyfriend seemed to warrant that last line.

I read another book that ended with our plucky heroine, having solved a murder, still mulling over her romantic options as she fell asleep. Somehow, her closing her eyes as I closed the book was appropriate.

It's the ones that end with the clever dialogue that I struggle with, and I do it myself. They remind me of this:

Which makes me wonder why I do it.

I'm kvetching about all this today because my editor advised me to re-write the ending to my horse show mystery. She likes how everything turns out, but thinks it goes out with a whimper instead of a soft, romantic Tie-the-beginning-to-the-end sigh.

What about you, Gentle Readers (and Writers)? Love endings? Hate them? Got any words of advice for this struggling soul? All suggestions are welcome, even the ones that suggest I put on my big-girl britches and stop whining.


  1. Final lines are important, and I try to end with the protagonist having a significant personal thought about an issue he or she struggled with during the story. But even more important is the climax/conclusion. If you've done that right, readers will forgive and/or forget the last little moment. Or that what's I tell myself. :)

    1. Yes, I also remember the climax/conclusion, but I tend to think that a lot of authors throw away the epilogue (for lack of a better term). In prep for this post, I went through my library looking for a great ending. As I told a friend, I wept bitter tears, even at some wonderful books. We're all admonished to write great first lines. We've all heard about famous last words. Why no great last lines?

  2. You know that old saying... the first lines should hook your reader. The last lines should make them want to buy your next book.

    It's rare that I read a truly memorable ending. Or even see one in a movie, for that matter. I've received a couple of reviews that say the ending didn't work for them, and I'll need to consider that in the future.

    But for me as a reader, when a story is over, it's over. Wrap it up. Don't dawdle and draw it out for pages and pages. Part of me has already moved on.

  3. I like endings that let me know something more is coming - a vague reference to something unsettled that will be covered in the next book.


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