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What Else Are You Reading? > How do you like your endings?




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message 33: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 185 comments I'm good with any ending. As long as it fits the logic and style of the story, I've got absolutely no problems with it. Though some of the best endings I've come across are actually the tragic endings.


message 32: by kvon (new)

kvon | 554 comments After hating the ending of The Diamond Age, I started paying more attention to what I liked. That one ended unexpectedly, not tying up loose ends, and sitting there like a dead fish.

I think Lois McMaster Bujold does my favorite endings, where she ends the central adventure/mystery of the book, and follows after with completing the lesser emotional arcs and general clean up and consequences. See Memory, for example. Tolkien is probably the most extreme example of this with the Scouring of the Shire section which goes on longer than I would like, but I would rather have that than a four page resolution.


message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Stevenson (chrisstevenson) | 45 comments I have to have EEA or HFN (happy for now?). Especially when the characters work so hard to get themselves out of a jamb and survive, beyond all reasoning. I say this, knowing that some of our best and most popular classics and literature have tragic endings.


message 30: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 318 comments If ASOIAF has a happy ending, I imagine I'll feel about it the same way I did about (view spoiler) - so relieved that nothing horrible is happening to the main character(s) anymore that I'll forgive it's artificiality.


message 29: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 24, 2012 06:37AM) (new)

I think as long as the ending fits, I appreciate it. A really sad story can have a happy ending, if the writer knows what they're doing, but it has to feel right. That's why I agree that the Harry Potter epilogue shouldn't have happened - though not because how Harry's life went (I can believe all he wanted was a proper family life, to be honest), but how little changes and Hermione. Her character felt so, so different there, and I didn't like it.

On cliffhangers, one series that does them in a manner I like is the Dresden Files - the plot for that novel is always resolved, but the overarching plot still leaves cliffhangers, and it's nice, because there's both a sense of closure in one way, and suspense in another.


message 28: by Leesa (new)

Leesa (leesalogic) | 452 comments Regarding stand-alone novels, I want some sort of resolution. There needs to be a point to the whole story. I don't want it rushed or contrived, either. It doesn't have to be happy, it doesn't have to answer all the questions; I just need to know why the story was told in the first place. It's OK to leave something unsaid: I like wondering what could happen, like I continue telling the story in my head.


message 27: by Agatha (new)

Agatha (agathab) | 130 comments terpkristin wrote: "Also, it's a cardinal sin in my book (and one GRRM violates) to leave a book on a cliffhanger, even if it's in a series. I'm a big proponent of books in a series being complete...don't assume I'm going to have the energy to read the next book."

Oh, I definitely agree. I'm fine with a sequel hook, but cliffhangers just annoy me. I feel like a book ought to have a proper ending, even if there are plot points left wide open for a sequel.

I didn't need the "assurance" that everything was happy ever after--it didn't matter. But there it was.

To be honest, I would've preferred it if she'd just written: "And they lived happily ever after." Instead she had to go right ahead and ruin the entire series. Because that's what she did.

I don't mind Harry living a perfectly normal life - that's what people do and it was always his greatest wish to just be a normal guy with a normal family. What I do mind are the implications that nothing has changed in the society and I specifically resent Ronald Weasley's comment to his daughter about Scorpius Malfoy, which just perpetuates the racism and classism that this very person was fighting to eradicate. Not to mention the off hand comment about casually bespelling a person without magic like it's not actually a crime in their own community! To an officer, no less! And said officer aka Harry just laughs.

Suffice to say, I was completely disgusted and generally like to pretend the epilogue does not exist.


message 26: by Tim (new)

Tim | 380 comments No, I don't mind the cliffhangers - I guess it comes from being brought up on a diet of Dr Who and Saturday Morning cinema, where everything ended on a cliffhanger. But what I don't like is a cop-out resolution at the beginning of the next book/episode (sadly, inevitable in 60s/70s Dr Who and at the flicks).


message 25: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3428 comments Tim wrote: "Bleak, sad, happy, bittersweet, cliffhanger, even full-on tragic are all fine as the story demands, but the story must be satisfactorily resolved."

By and large, this is what I look for unless it makes sense to leave something to mystery. I don't need everything tied up in a bow, but I shouldn't be sitting there wondering if I missed a chapter. Harry Potter had (before the epilogue) what I'd consider a good ending. The story was done, you (the reader) knew what happened, and it didn't feel particularly forced. It made sense (and was one of many possible endings that would have made sense). I hated hated hated hated the epilogue. I didn't need the "assurance" that everything was happy ever after--it didn't matter. But there it was.

Also, it's a cardinal sin in my book (and one GRRM violates) to leave a book on a cliffhanger, even if it's in a series. I'm a big proponent of books in a series being complete...don't assume I'm going to have the energy to read the next book.


message 24: by Doug (new)

Doug S. (dougoftheabaci) | 248 comments I'm hoping Game of Thrones has a bitter-sweet ending. Not in complete collapse in everything we've come to know and love but a slightly tragic, slightly pleasant, perfect ending.

I expect to be disappointed but I hope I won't.


message 23: by Tim (new)

Tim | 380 comments Bleak, sad, happy, bittersweet, cliffhanger, even full-on tragic are all fine as the story demands, but the story must be satisfactorily resolved. I do find as I get older though, that I need a greater ratio of "happy" to "sad"


message 22: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments i hope G.R.R. Martin won't end the song of ice and fire whith a happy ending. That would be against the way he created the world of the series


message 21: by Louise (new)

Louise As I grow older, I've lost my taste for too tragic/bleak endings, bittersweet is great, but not black and depressing. (Although I love Otello :-)
I really like the ending of Stephen Kings 11/22/63 for instance.
It annoys me, when the author seems unable to tie up the story, and suddenly introduces a new charater or uses the deus ex machina to wrap it up clumsily.


message 20: by Sky (last edited Apr 22, 2012 06:33PM) (new)

Sky Corbelli | 309 comments I like my endings to be open-ended. I mean, the central plot should have a meaningful resolution, regardless of what prices are paid or who comes out on top. But that just isn't quite enough.

I want to read a book that's a glimpse into another world. That world could be our own, it could live through a looking glass, or it could span the stars. But it should not be exactly the same size as the story.

I don't just want to be introduced to a few character with a bone to pick about an issue, I want to discover the world they live in. I want to revel in what makes it tick, to truly love it and care about what happens there.

So give me the hints about a brighter future, about the repercussions of the main characters' decisions, or even about how, in the end, all their good intentions just weren't quite enough. Then step back and let me imagine the stories that could be, that might have been, and that never were.


message 19: by Casey (new)

Casey Hampton (caseyhampton) | 652 comments I think everyone has the latent desire that a story will stay true to itself or that it will stay instep with the narrative. Though I don't feel this desire corresponds with a story having a sad or happy ending. And while the definition of sad or happy is relative, subjective to the observer, we all understand the greater concept of whether a story has a happy, a sad or a somewhere in the middle sort of ending. A balanced story is a good story. After all, no one wants to see a one sided fight as it becomes dull rather quickly. But assuming we have balance (i.e.) all the plates are spinning on broomsticks and all the turtles are stacked from up to down, how do you like your ending?


Sorry, this was just me thinking out loud.


message 18: by Marz (new)

Marz | 39 comments I want an ending to give me a sense of resolution, but not necessarily everything wrapped up in a neat little bow. It can be happy, it can be sad, but give me a sense of resolution. If it was a long and bitter road to get to the ending, I want that to be reflected. I want characters to look back and see that their journey is over, for better or for worse.
I think the ending should reflect the story. I hate it when stories suddenly change the tone for the ending so that it doesn't fit with the rest of it. Like if the author built up this epic battle with lots of consequences and everyone just dances off into happily ever after with no consequences. The consequences don't have to necessarily be death, they can just be emotional scars, but show that in the ending.


message 17: by Bjorn (new)

Bjorn (Magelord) | 12 comments If all books had happy endings, what would be the point from an author's point of view to drive the story forward? If I am dead sure that all the characters survive until the end and the hero gets to marry the princess the rest of the plot would just feel like a filler.
A good book has a story that surprises me; where things end in a way I didn't expect from page one.
Not saying that I begrudge the hero the princess, but he has to earn it in a way that entertains me.


message 16: by John (new)

John Wiswell | 86 comments I overwhelmingly want endings that are appropriate to their stories, rather than dogmatically preferring a happy or sad ending. If I have, I'll pick "happy" just because it's at least a positive event. If I'm not going to enjoy the end either way, then the characters ought to at least enjoy it.

But it's much more important to stay true to the narrative. The almost fatalistic double-closure of Frankenstein is apt to its narrative; the happily-ever-after cavalier ending is apt to Princess Bride. Sometimes a happy story has nuances that demand a bittersweet ending; sometimes a bleak story demands a hopeful ending. In all good narratives, the ending satisfies by being appropriate to what you've done contextually. Stuart's point about open endings is totally valid, and works in this context: if you're going to do one, it has to work with the story you wrote.

Being true to the story often leads to something more complex than a "happy" or "sad" ending - LOTR has triumph over Sauron, but also the loss of the Shire, Frodo feeling lost, the voyage to the Grey Havens, and Sam taking over the book. It is righteous, joyous, bittersweet, awful, heartbreaking and promising in its various events. It's an incredible piece of work.


message 15: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) Casey wrote: "Wow, I really like the content of these posts. Thanks to all who have dropped there two coins.

Let me just say this. I really liked the Harry Potter books!
But I'm one who feels that the story w..."

I glad Harry lived, I liked the chap, but I was quite concerned before the 7th book came out that she was gong to kill him. The book could easily have had a satisfying but tragic ending.


message 14: by Casey (new)

Casey Hampton (caseyhampton) | 652 comments Wow, I really like the content of these posts. Thanks to all who have dropped there two coins.

Let me just say this. I really liked the Harry Potter books!
But I'm one who feels that the story would have been better if Harry Potter would have died rather than to grow to a middle-aged father. I think Harry's character had little to do with the overall story. You could have still allowed good to conquer bad without having to let little Harry finally get to be happy. I don't think this makes me a bad person.... Does it?

Look. I'm all for the village farm boy killing the rampaging dragon that is threatening the valley. But I really struggle if the village farm boy is then permitted to grow old, fat and happy as countless grandchildren wrestle about his feet. Everything has a price; every action has a reaction, so if someone is going to do a great good by killing the dragon, the killer better pay the price rather than merely sipping lemonade in the shade.

I always end up feeling kind of bad for the dragon. I mean maybe he or she didn't have any little dragon friends to pal around with when he or she was growing up. I don't know, there's something sobering about a lonely old dragon that may ultimately be a product of their environment.


message 13: by Joe Informatico (new)

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 836 comments I'm going to quote this recent article by a videogame/tabletop RPG blogger I read regularly. The article specifically addresses the controversy over the ending of the Mass Effect video game trilogy, but these guidelines apply to storytelling in any medium, and I find he really hits the nail on the head:

In general, an audience is probably looking for three key things at the end of a story:

Affirmation - Love conquers all, hope endures, freedom is worth fighting for, the truth will set you free, justice can't be denied, etc. You save the little kid, the evil overlord is defeated, somebody gets married, everyone celebrates the hero, cupcakes and ice cream. Ex: Frodo drops the ring into Mt. Doom and Saruon is defeated forever.

Explanation - All questions answered. Making sure it all makes sense also falls under this category. Ex: How did Gandalf come back from the dead? What made the Witch King undefeatable? What happens to the Three Rings if the One is destroyed?

Closure - How did things turn out? Did the characters have a happy ending? Ex: Sam married Rose. Frodo and Bilbo went to the Havens. Aragorn was crowned king.


He goes on to say it isn't necessary or even appropriate for every story to hit all three. A darker story probably won't have complete Affirmation, and it's okay to leave some questions unanswered. But if you're not going have at least one of these in your ending, you better be really sure of your writing and your message.


message 12: by Doug (new)

Doug S. (dougoftheabaci) | 248 comments Fresno Bob wrote: "I like my endings believable, they also don't have to be all nicely wrapped up. The best example I can think of is from the movie "The Abyss", my perfect ending for it would have been Ed Harris ta..."

I can understand that, but I tend to look at things, even things where they say it's Earth, as somewhere else so things like that don't bother me. I only care that it works with the story.


message 11: by Fresno Bob (new)

Fresno Bob | 428 comments I like my endings believable, they also don't have to be all nicely wrapped up. The best example I can think of is from the movie "The Abyss", my perfect ending for it would have been Ed Harris taking his last breaths and you seeing a light start to approach him. Fade to Black.

No wet fiberglass alien city, no CGI butterflies, you get the idea I hope. I don't need a happy ending


message 10: by Micael (new)

Micael Martel (mikemartel) | 65 comments I love it when it's unpredictable. When you put the book down and you're shocked, saying to yourself; ''what the hell did just happen''

Doug wrote: "Well-written. I don't care if it's happy or sad—I actually prefer a good sad ending to a bad happy one—I just want it to be well done.

With Harry Potter, for example, I would have preferred he'd d..."


From time to time a good little cheezy one like the one from harry potter is good. It wasn't great but it gave a sense of finality and new beginnings which was ok. Of course it would've been perfect if he had die, the tragic hero and all, like you said. People got way to attached to the character, sadly I'm one of those person hahaha.

I like to think that even though we only see him as a dad, he became a kick-ass Auror and went fighting every kind of crazies out there :D


message 9: by Doug (new)

Doug S. (dougoftheabaci) | 248 comments Well-written. I don't care if it's happy or sad—I actually prefer a good sad ending to a bad happy one—I just want it to be well done.

With Harry Potter, for example, I would have preferred he'd died. It would have been so poetically beautiful. His entire life has lead up to this one, fateful battle. Everything about Harry says sacrifice and had he been able to sacrifice himself for this friends, for all the things he loved, it would have meant so much.

As a secondary, I would have accepted him winning and going on to do something. Anything. Instead we get this image of him as a normal dad living a normal middle-class life. Good thing that fits in with his character that has no confidence in his abilities, drive, duty, or moral compass. I'm sure that's exactly the path he would have taken.

That ending screamed, "I want to give Harry this ending, regardless of whether or not it's the right ending for the story."


message 8: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Marling (AEMarling) | 49 comments Hell, yes, happy endings!

Not all the time, though. If the story is set up as a tragedy it had better deliver the bitter pill. That set-up is not easy to do, and it involves the protagonist resisting change. Think of Moby Dick. It would have felt like a betrayal if crazy Captain Ahab had succeeded in killing the whale.

And I do feel a drop of discord helps the happy ending go down. No more than a drop, though.


message 7: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1 comments I don't believe in the concept of endings. I like being left wanting more.


message 6: by Agatha (new)

Agatha (agathab) | 130 comments Random said: "That said, I am a sucker for a bittersweet ending. :)"

I definitely agree.

Generally I don't have a preference either way, the only thing that really gets me worked up is when things which shouldn't be left open ended are. Also, the ending should never clash with the tone of the rest of the book; I've read several books that were pretty grim in tone and content and then ended on a completely incongruous uplifting note.

If the story is primed for it, I do not mind open endings that leave things to the reader's imagination. However, I do have a bit of a problem with that because I mostly consider a work finished the moment I close the book (or the last book of the series, if that's the case). I can imagine the rest and expound upon it but none of it is certain - what is certain is only what the author wrote. The book ends when it ends, for me, and that's when I cease to think about the plot. (I say the plot, because I adore books that get my mind working and I love to ruminate on various concepts introduced in the relevant story etc.)


message 5: by Random (last edited Apr 18, 2012 03:07PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) It depends. For the most part I prefer an ending which is appropriate to the story in question.

That said, I am a sucker for a bittersweet ending. :)


message 4: by Kim (new)

Kim | 455 comments I wouldn't say I prefer any ending type over another. It all depends on the book I'm reading. If a happy ending fits then that's fine. If a gritty ending fits then I'm fine with that too. I don't like endings that are tacked on when they shouldn't be.


message 3: by Stuart (new)

Stuart | 3 comments Thinking about what I like about the ending of a story I automatically went to 'happy ending'. The main character lives happily ever after and the bad guys are dead/punished or whatever.

But looking at it I don't think it's the 'happy' factor that really satisfies me at the end of a book but more that the plot points and characters have a real ending and that's what I take away with me. Whenever I finish the last page of a book I feel relaxed lol because I know what's happend to everyone (god complex much? lol)

I know lots of people like an open ending and say "it's up to the reader to make their mind up" but I just want to know. With that kind of ending it's like I've just watched a Pilot episode of a TV show that I think I'd love but never gets a full season out of it.

but... getting more on point. If the story has a proper conclusion, then I probably prefer the gritty truth end - maybe with a hint of optimism...

*waffle over*


message 2: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments Casey wrote: "I'm fascinated with the concepts of beginnings and endings. They are such abstract ideas and yet their manifestations in literature and life are quite physical. What I'd really like to understand..."

it all depends on what i thought about the characters and if i somehow made an empathic bond whith them. i do like happy endings but only if the sory was fill of darkness and sadness. who doesn't welcome the dawn after a terrifying night? but this is just another reason why "the happily ever after" ending is no good. Let's say the chosen one saves the world, gets the girl and returns home, but like the hobbits after returning from they journey, he will return to a different place, since his experiences changed him causing an interior and exterior growth. the hero will know how close the world was to be doomed and so a happy ending is unreal.In a story there should be place for tears, joy, sorrow, loss. After all even heroic/epic fantasy stories are not fairytales and, if one is capable to accept the laws of the world, should be as much realistic as possible. Things don't go alwas as we'd want so even if i want the good guys to win i don't want another carebear's adventure


message 1: by Casey (new)

Casey Hampton (caseyhampton) | 652 comments I'm fascinated with the concepts of beginnings and endings. They are such abstract ideas and yet their manifestations in literature and life are quite physical. What I'd really like to understand is how do you like an ending of a story to leave you? I'm not talking about stories that are stretched over multiple volumes and each volume has its own ending and the like. But a story, the whole collection of happening that goes into the book or books, this is story.

So how do you like your story to end?
Do you like endings that leave you feeling happy as if the sky will be nothing but rainbows and gumdrops?
Do you like an ending of a story to be more realistic and gritty in its truth?
Do you like endings that are sad or bitter?

Personally I don't like stories that are happy at the end. I don't like it when the good guy wins and carries off the girl into the rosy sunset of ocean spray *sigh*

Sometimes life is a kick in the face and when I read literature that ignores this reality, it annoys me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some masochistic reader who wants everyone to die in the story but I don't want them to dance around with flowers in their hair either. I understand that everyone reads for different reasons whether it is for escapism or for realism, we all have our own cause and taste.

So how do you like a story to end?


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Lois McMaster Bujold (other topics)