Wednesday, November 2, 2011


    I am trying to write the last chapter in the book I’m revising. My crit group opined that I hadn’t tied up enough of the plot thingymabobbers. Let me just say right here, endings suck.

    So, I’m going to ask you all what kind of endings you prefer. Does the protagonist need to be happy, healthy, and satisfied with his lot? Does the antagonist need to be dead, incarcerated, or reformed? Do you need to know if the secondary characters are living productive lives as you turn the last page? These are the nagging questions I’m asking myself on behalf of my prospective readers. I just don’t know how much I want to tie up.

    Time for some ferinstances.

    Egon, the protagonist, has some feelings for this girl he met while recruiting men to help him defeat the witch, Katerina. He kissed her, he thinks about her time to time, he’s kinda got a thing for her. When last he saw Jessica she was pissed because two of her brothers were killed and one maimed while fighting Katerina. Heat of the moment, he’d just told her they were dead, she tells him she never wants to see him again. Done? Or do you need to know more in the last chapter?

    Acinom, a secondary protagonist, a winged humanoid female and the last of her kind has helped Egon become a leader and gave him tools to defeat Katerina. She’s kind of a mentor though a very unconventional one. She has been flirting with Egon throughout and the two developed a psychic connection. She is an alluring, wanton, free spirit without many boundaries and has told Egon that she and he should start a new race, half her, half him. Oh, and she’s okay with Jessica being in the mix. Haven’t seen much of her toward the end because mentors have to fade. She’ll make an appearance in the last chapter but do you need to know if Egon is going to father her babies?

    Lars, a sixteen year old boy and one of the first to join Egon. He’s a smartass and he hears the whispers of dragons. We last saw him on the back of the dragon circling above the castle. He’ll have at least a mention in the final chapter but how much do you need to know?

    I see him living in a stone cottage near a cavern high atop a cliff. Gradually, the constant whispers of the dragon drive him mad. He takes to stealing chickens and kidnaping robust middle-aged women. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say, mental illness is a terrible thing. But, someone else might have a different imagining of Lars’ future. Someone else might imagine him married with three kids living on a small farm. He’d have a herd of dairy goats, the dragon would keep the predators away and he’d teach his children to make yogurt. How do I end it with Lars?

    How much does the reader want? How much do I give them? How much control do I exert over the direction the story takes from here? That’s the real question isn’t it? And I haven’t a clue.

    How about you? Do you like everything wrapped up? Do you like to wrap everything up. Or do you like to let your reader’s imaginations wander willy-nilly?


  1. This one's tricky. I think major plot points or any emotional plot points need to be resolved at the end. Anything the reader is emotionally invested in, and might be frustrated about if it isn't tied up.

    As for Lars, it seems like leaving him open might be of great frustration to you, but if the way he turns out is not integral to the story, I'd have to say it shouldn't be in the book. Unless there is a great way to work it in there.

    I think the ending might also depend upon whether you intend to take these stories further in the future or if this is it.

    For Lars, maybe you could write a short story about how he ends up? It might satisfy you some, you could publish it separately, or perhaps it could be a sort of bonus with the book? Hrm, just throwing out some thoughts.

    Whichever way you go with it all, good luck with the decisions. We build these worlds up in our heads, and it's hard to look at something you're so close to and make decisions about how much of this world to show and how much to keep to yourself.

  2. Hi Mike:
    Lots to consider.

    1. Is this a stand-alone? If so then the end must tie everything up, but that doesn't mean it must be in the last chapter.

    2. If not a stand-alone you still have to tie nearly everything up in this book.

    3. Once you have the black moment, you can start to eliminate or deal with minor characters so you don't have a crowd at the end.

    4. It sounds like Jessica ended it with Egon. Unless Egon spends an inordinate amount of time pining for her I would say that it's over.

    5. Katerina must come to a satisfactory end some how, unless you plan a sequel and then she can run away and hide to reappear in a future book, not necessarily the next one.

    6. Acinom sounds amazing. If Egon has said no there is no need to rehash this relationship. She can remain the tease that he tolerates. If Egon has indicated that he might be interested then you must bring this to some kind of end.

    7. Mental illness is indeed tragic. The real question about Lars is your plans for a future book. If Lars is in it, then you must send him help though you don't need to outline what they are doing, just a short piece in any of the last few chapters to let the reader know he will be cared for. If this is the end of Lars then word might come to Egon about his fate. Perhaps he moved in with the dragons. Our imagination will fill in the blanks there. Or perhaps one of the women ended his life, or a husband if you want a more traditional ending.

    Bottom line: How do you feel about it? Critique is wonderful, and I love my partners, but there comes a time when you must let the voices lie still. It seems to me that every person has a different vision for my work and I'm sure the same is true for yours. It may be time for an editor. Mine helped me beyond words.

    Hope that helps.
    N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

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  4. Wow, thanks for the replies.

    This is a stand alone. I might set something in the world but it won't be a continuation of this story. Kat is dead and Egon has done his growing.

    However, Lars would make a great protagonist.The whole paragraph about Lars going mad was a silly tongue in cheek thing.

    I thought I might have Egon and Jessica bump into one another. If I let there be a spark the reader to take it where and how the liked. Everything Jessica said was heat of the moment.

    Acinom is going to be the problem. Fortunately, I'm a pantser so I'll just write and see what happens.

    Thanks again, Mike

  5. These comments are fabulous, and I have very little to add (she said like she could've anyway. sheesh.)

    There is one book, not in the SF/F realm, that I read in the last couple of years where I absolutely LOVED the ending, or non-ending: PARANOIA by Joseph Finder.

  6. Mike. In endings, as with beginnings and every sentence in between, ask yourself, "How is the reader going to FEEL?" Your job as a writer is to evoke the reader's emotions. Do you have a satisfying ending? Best Terry

  7. Ooh, this will be fun - if you’ll take it that way. I’ll base my responses solely on the synopsis you’ve provided of each character profile:

    Egon: doesn’t sound like the happy ending type of guy. He’s a hero with a much larger mission than just the one witch; and getting tangle up in a lasting relationship would crimp his style. He likes the idea of forever after with one woman - maybe he’s not the love them and leave them type per se, but his lifestyle doesn’t permit the fantasy. He’s a romantic, puts his whole heart and soul into love interest; but his heart belongs to the next mission, and he knows this. I’d say let her walk away and be done with him; BUT show his regret at the loss and acceptance that it is the right thing - for her.

    Acinom: The perfect opposite to Egon. She needs progeny, not love, and the fact Egon is an earthbound spirit would make long term commitment unsatisfactory. What draws them together is their understanding of the larger world and what they can do to leave their mark. If you have a moment early in the novel, when the two are just getting to know each other, bonding, and a scene leaves the reader pretty sure they shared at least one night of passion for purely comforts sake, then their end could make reference to the event without confirming anything - leaving Egon oblivious to his potential fatherhood, and Acinom with a knowing smile. She is interested in his heroic qualities; not necessarily in him as a potential mate. Just make sure the emotional bond is intact when they separate, and both are satisfied they got what they needed out of the relationship.

    Lars: Perhaps an apprentice ready for the journeyman trials; which include taking your learning into the wider world and making your mark, knowing your mentor/friend is available for council. End with a fond memory where Egon boosts Lars’ confidence in his abilities to make his own mark on future events. Show that the bond of kinship is not dependent on physical proximity . . .

    Unless you’ve set Lars up as a dufus who can’t make it to the outhouse on his own without Egon’s help. Are the whispers of Dragons something that can be tolerated with the right training? Does Egon know of a place where Lars could get the training he needs to live a productive life? Is there a happy balance that, if Lars chooses, he could be happy raising a family of yogurt producers and the one dragon is enough to help maintain his sanity? I guess for this scenario I’d have to know what role Dragons play in your story concept . .

    I like to wrap up only the specific novel/character plot. It does not have to end “happy” but it does have to be satisfying. And by satisfying, I mean all the characters have to accept the end of the specific situation, in a manner that means something to the characters. Your end with Lars would likely leave ME unsatisfied, unless you’d built that potential into the novel all along. If Lars only has one clear moment of sanity that helps Egon fulfill his mission, then I might be thinking that insanity scenario all along. But still; I’d not like for Egon to show such lack of faith in his quest mate. To me, being positive or hopeful at the end isn’t the same thing as a happy ending. Its why I usually dislike epilogues. I’m more of a “ride off into the sunset” type gal.

    If you’ve read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and know anything of the controversies over his ending, the let me tell you I was for it ending as Roland picked up his friends horn (can’t remember the name). I didn’t like the neat, happy ending epilogue for Eddie, Susannah and Jake. And Oy.

    Good luck with figuring it all out Mike.


  8. For me, a good ending to a book is when the questions posed at the beginning are answered or the problems at the beginning are solved or the quest is achieved.

    Tieing up the loose ends for the characters is only necessary if there is a big unanswered question still hanging over their head. If there is lingering doubt or uncertainty of their fate that needs to be eliminated or there needs to be a very good reason for leaving the reader with that uncertainty.

    That probably isn't very helpful.

  9. Hi Mike,

    The ending needs to be(after the black moment) the resolution that will either(if this is a first book in a series)have the reader wondering what's going to happen next in your character's life or giving the reader a feeling of completion, that the character accomplished what he started out to accomplish on page one or he could have accomplished what he started out to accomplish on page one and something else along the line came up that will be sought in book two.

    The main thing is not leaving the reader feeling like you stopped the book with an unfinished sentence. Give closure or elude to closure to all the characters the reader would have come to care about and you've found your ending.

  10. Ohhh, I like the way Donna thinks. The baby of a new race on the way. Perfect. :)

    Lars definitely needs his own book. Down the road a bit -- after he's grown up some and had some very bad experiences. Then he can be a very dark, depressing fellow and his growth, with some lovely lady helping him, will be oh-so-much fun.

    But then I would turn all your stories into romance novels if I had the chance. I gotta have that HEA.


  11. Wow again.

    Thanks for the responses.

    Egon has gone from reluctant hero to reluctant King. He’s dealt with all the big stuff, now he has to help me with the little stuff.

    I like the night of passion thing but I’m going to twist it a little. I suspect that Acinom is going to swoop into King Egon’s bedchamber through an open window and have her way with him. She knows he’s got a thing for her so it’s totally justified in her mind. She’ll tell him on the way out, “I’ll be back same time next year. I’ve a race to mother and you’re the father.” Egon will feel a bit used but he’ll get over it.

    Lars, the whole going mad from whispers thing was a joke. He hears the whispers but they won’t make him crazy. Lars has the makings of a great hero. I’m talking character type here. His greatest strengths are also his greatest weaknesses. He is supremely confident and absolutely fearless. I think there are some hard lessons coming to demonstrate just how confidence and fearlessness can be weaknesses. But he’s got an indomitable spirit so he’ll soldier through.

    Thanks for the ideas and support everyone.

    Gotta go, Egon is tearing his hair out from all the admin crap he has to deal with. He’s just about to skip out and see some old friends, and tie up a few loose ends.

    Thanks again, Mike