Endings are hard. Short stories are hard, but endings – you have to get them right. There are loads of books and short stories that when we reach the very last words, we know they failed. And it is such a disappointment.
People talk a lot about grabbing a reader with that first sentence, but that’s often for agents and publishers to read and dismiss. Sometimes we make decisions to read based on some other criterion. An author whom we know and love, that we have read before, we will often read their next work anyway, knowing they will deliver the goods and forgiving them a dodgy first sentence.
But the ending – we don’t forgive that. Get it wrong and even if you are Mr. Novelling Wonderful from the Best Seller List, we will not appreciate it one little tiny bit. Make those loose ends come together in too pat a fashion, or forget to fasten some of them off at all, and you had better hold onto your parachute, because you will be dropping down to earth with a bump and we may never read you again.
I have read quite a lot of Stephen King and I love a lot of his books, but at the risk of upsetting all you King fans, he can be guilty of a rotten ending. Brilliant, brilliant ideas, master of writing, but sometimes the end is disappointing. Misery is a great read, but in my opinion, the ending is very dodgy. And in a way, I find that reassuring. Great, big, famous writers have trouble too.
I entered a competition recently. Not a biggie, not something very scary, just at my local writers’ group. I did not star. My story was not sufficiently edited, it should have had more time spent on it and the idea may not have been all that good in the first place. But the ending….
The very kind woman who was judging and giving her short criticism of our works, talked about the ending being weak.
I re-read it yesterday and to say it was weak was an understatement. It didn’t so much end as come to a full stop with the most wishy-washy couple of sentences possible.
I am ashamed of myself. What is worse, I want it to have a better conclusion, but at the moment, I am at a loss as to how to finish it.
How about you? Do you struggle with endings?