The wonderful writers of WisRWA invited me to their Christmas Party and I happily attended. There’s something magical about a party where all the guests have something in common with you like the love of books. We ate, there was a gift exchange (with much oohing and ahhing when someone received something related to writing or books) and we talked.
One subject that came up was the unsatisfying ending to an otherwise great read. Not that it wasn’t a necessarily happily ever after, but that lingering question of what happened next. I know it’s been done for years, but I’m not a fan of it either. I loved Gone With the Wind, but Rhett leaving Scarlett at the end and not knowing what was happening next frustrated me. (And the sequel, Scarlett, coming out years later didn’t help.) I guess I like my book endings to be tied up with a little bow.
Not wanting to give any spoilers away I won’t tell you the book, just some endings that were mentioned by others as leaving them wanting at the end of otherwise enjoyable books. First, a man is at the airport waiting for the woman he loves and her child to return to him. No more pages and no sequels. The reader doesn’t know if she ever gets off the plane or not. Next, a woman comes to America searching for her long lost love, never knowing if he has turned into an outlaw. At the end, the head of the outlaw is displayed, but never identified to the reader. The group feeling was that after reading the whole book, there should be a definite payoff.
Yep, give me a good epilogue any day. I need that in my books. I don’t want to have to think about what happens next. Of course, if I do read a book that doesn’t have an ending, I’ll just make up a happy ending because that’s what I do, but I will be wary about reading that author again. The exception to this rule is a series where I know there will be an answer in the next book. This too can backfire if the publisher doesn’t want to put out the next book. I’ve seen that happen.
What about you? Do you absolutely need to know what happens next? Are you willing to have a book leave you hanging for you to fill in the blanks? Is it ok with you to write your own ending to books you’ve read? Or is the ending so unsatisfying that you wish they would have left it open ended?
Bottom Line: I can only imagine my reaction if To Kill a Mockingbird had ended with the line, “The jury finds the defendant….”