Killer Year–The Class of 2007

The End
July 24, 2007, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Dave White

I had a teacher who used to say “they’ll only remember the beginning and the ending.”

I believe that saying.  Especially about the ending.  Yes, the beginning is what drags readers into a book, but the ending is what sticks with a reader.

I love the sucker punch ending.  Books that just reach out, grab you, and when you hit that final page you are breathless.  The ending that sticks with you, that you think about for days, picking it apart and letting it haunt your dreams.

The ending that’s always stuck with me was Dennis Lehane’s SHUTTER ISLAND.  Not the “twist,” I saw that coming at least 100  pages from the end.  No, the moments that followed the twist where we find out what actually happened.  The description of “logs” in the water.  So sad, so deep.  That’s what stuck with me.  I still get chills regarding that chapter.  That novel punched me in the gut and here 4 years later, it still won’t let go.

I want my endings to do that.  I want to grip the reader and continually turn the screw, revelation after revelation.  Characters should go through hell so readers can be shocked.  Moments, scenes, words should stick with the reader.

At the same time the ending has to be aesthetically pleasing as well.  It can’t just shock for shock’s sake.  It has to work with what came before.  Motivations have to make sense, twists have to be plausible.  As a reader, you have to believe in them in the world of the book.  Readers have to believe what happened.  They have to care.

Hopefully, that will happen with WHEN ONE MAN DIES.  Hopefully the reader will care.  Hopefully the ending will stick with them.

(Can you tell I’m getting close to the end of revising my second book?)

3 Comments so far
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Dave, if your second ending is half as good as your first, you will have accomplished your goals. It’s a great disservice to the reader to not give them a spectacular ending.

Comment by JT Ellison

I totally agree with JT. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a book and going, “Oh, that was interesting. I certainly would have liked SOMETHING to happen at the end.”

It seems to me some novels are kind of like a long newspaper article. Just a straight recitation of a series of events with nothing out of the ordinary. How utterly boring.

Comment by E Scott Johnson

“Motivations have to make sense, twists have to be plausible.” — Dave, tell me about it. … I’ve learned that the hard way — through multiple revisions. I think the author has to provide enough details, storyline, etc. through the entirety of the book so that when the ending comes, readers can feel like they coulda saw it coming, had they been looking at things that way

Comment by Greg Bardsley

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