Sunday, December 2, 2007


Readers and writers, what say you? Was this a killer-good ending to die for, or one full of possibility that laid him out flat in exasperation?

Did the ending make him want to hunt up everything the author had ever written? Google them? Or consider taking out an ad warning other readers to stay away?

That first sentence, that first paragraph, that first page, grabbed him and sucked him in. Rocked him right into the story world with fresh spirit and questions that made him crazy with curiosity. A rather slow reader, he invested hours of his play-time to read the book--not to mention the twenty-five buck investment up-front. He gave up his gourmet kibble for a month. Sheesh.

What do you think he hoped for when he curled up with the book?

As a reader, I figure out somewhere on the first page if the cover/title has set up appropriate expectations. If it hasn't, the book is placed back on the shelf and I move on. But if it does? I catch my breath and I'm sure my eyes get glittery. It's too much fun to mine a new book and horde it like a special treasure. There are few things better.

As a writer, I know it's those first few words that are either gonna grab an editor's attention or make her eyes glaze over (no glitter there). The worst thing that could happen to me as a writer, is for a reader--an editor or not--to be thinking about errands she needs to run while she's looking at words over which I have slaved.

So, in the beginning, just as God did on Earth, perfection (or in my human-case, as close as I could come) is created. I have re-written those first few words more than any other words in my manuscript. An editor may be able to make 'em better, but by golly, they were good enough to make that editor's hands tighten just a bit and her heart to flutter.

Glory! I'm good to go!

But as a reader, here's what often happens. The characters are personable, quirky and charismatic. I care for them right away. I want to get to know them. I want them as my neighbors. Well . . . maybe not the psychopath. But you get my drift.

The plot moves. It sizzles. It twists. The writing is tight. The story never stops. There's no sagging middle. Something is always happening and I'm right there. It gets harder and harder to breathe. I'm excited to tell the world about this book.

I can't wait to see how it ends.

Remember now, I've invested money to buy the book, time to read the book, and now, my emotions are all over the book--dripping off the cover every time I pick it up.

And then I'm there. The ending. The place where magic happens. The place where I get to feel satisfied, if not entirely happy. My questions will be answered. Oh, my.


Who wrote this anyway? It doesn't match any of the theme or the tension or anything of the rest of the book. And just as bad: What? You've got to be kidding. I already knew this back on page 67.

As a suspense novelist, I know endings don't have to be happy--but they do have to satisfy. They are as important as any other part of the book and often get overlooked. I want endings that leave my readers thinking about the book days later. Endings that make them think about the book the next time they're looking for something to read. *grin*

Donald Maass, in Writing The Breakout Novel, has this to say about a good ending: "The resolution phase of the novel needs to tie up loose ends and, like the final chord in a symphony, provide a moment of rest and relaxation of tension. Resolutions also need to do that in as little space as possible, for one obvious reason: at this point, the reader is anxious to reach . . .

The end."

It's all better with friends.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, exactly my dilemma right now, Peg. I have only one or two more scenes to write in my novel, and I so want them to be satisfying for my future readers because you are so right ... endings are incredibly important. I forget who said something like, "Your first chapter sells your book, but your last chapter sells your next book."

    Do you know the exact quote there? I can't seem to find it.