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The Random - Discussion Threads > Do we expect too much from book endings?

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message 1: by Greg (last edited Jul 19, 2018 10:35AM) (new)

Greg (popzeus) Bit of a random thought while perusing GR and waiting for my dinner to cook. It strikes me that barely a day goes by where I don’t come across a comment or review (all authors, not just King) where the ending has been cited as a disappointment, and reason to knock a star off a book review score.

It can certainly be legitimate criticism with some books, and King himself has had it aimed at some of his work, but could some of it be down to the mindset of readers? Are we conditioned to expect too much from the end of a story, and build pictures in our head of how we want it to end, when often it’s just about enjoying the journey?

Just a thought!


message 2: by Jen_Ken (new)

Jen_Ken a.k.a....Jenny from the block | 725 comments Good thoughts Greg... I think to each their own... I happen to think the ending in lot of his work are spot on... Like... the mist, Buick 8, the body, dreamcatcher, the shining, firestarter, Salem’s Lot, secret garden secret window, dead zone, pet cemetery, the Mercedes trilogy, 11-22-63, IT, cujo, tomyknockers, desperation, the dark half, thinner, insomnia... while others would say I’m wrong...


message 3: by Femmy (new)

Femmy | 195 comments I think endings are important. I've added a star in my ratings of certain books because of the endings. And yes, I've knocked down a star for bad endings (including The Stand).


message 4: by Tim (new)

Tim Gunter | 120 comments I think there's a lot of different factors which come down to the ending landing or not, just the same as how well someone is going to like or dislike a specific novel or not. Of course reader preference is going to be a factor, e.g. what the reader envisions of the ending themselves or whether they like a certain style of ending. But really a big factor will always be in how well an author is able to craft an ending. At the end of the day endings are hard, and I think that shows in how many times people cite them as being weak parts of any form of entertainment.


message 5: by Erin (new)

Erin (ems84) | 2100 comments I think a good ending is important. There have been more then a few books that have been great up until the ending. Sort of like a good TV series that ends on a bad finale.


message 6: by Pamela (last edited Jul 20, 2018 03:17AM) (new)

Pamela Harju (pamelaharju) | 7 comments Endings are important, but I also think it's very subjective. The same ending doesn't work for everyone. E.g. many seem to dislike the ending in The Colorado Kid, but I loved it just the way it was.


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael T Roch | 376 comments I'm pretty OK with King's endings. Had the weaker endings been improved, I wonder if they still would have been believable.

I also wonder if today's movies influence how we want our books to end. Back in the day, story was important. It seems as if story takes a backseat today to over-the-top action. When we go to a movie, we don't want a "boring" story, we want to be taken for a ride. We get the heart-pounding rides but are they believable?

Without going into any spoiling details, the end of the Chloe Grace Moretz CARRIE differed from that of the Sissy Spacek CARRIE. The newer film took it over the top to the point of being unbelievable, while the original was believable (but perhaps boring to some viewers).


message 8: by Greg (last edited Jul 20, 2018 08:33AM) (new)

Greg (popzeus) Some interesting opinions. I can see how authors can struggle to end a story satisfactorily - reader expectations are probably heightened by the end of a book and can judge an ending a bit more harshly if it doesn’t deliver. It’s almost like a skill within a skill for an author, with a balance to be struck between a damp squib and an overblown and unbelievable ending.

Perhaps the best approach is just ‘the story is the story, it ends how it ends’, rather than trying to manufacture an ending to please readers.


message 9: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments If you look at the classic structure of a novel or story it's an arc that builds to a climax. Sometimes there's a resolution after the climax, but in a sense, the whole story is building toward those moments. So if the whole book (and almost the whole purpose of the read) is to get to the ending how can you say the ending isn't important? I guess you could say that it's the journey, and that's true. But the way stories are structured, the journey isn't enough. You need that resolution. It doesn't have to be happy, but it does need to feel complete. Sometimes King nails the climax and blows the resolution. I think he might have done that in the stand. Anyway, just another POV.


message 10: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments Greg wrote: "Some interesting opinions. I can see how authors can struggle to end a story satisfactorily - reader expectations are probably heightened by the end of a book and can judge an ending a bit more har..."

I DO agree with you on this Greg. The ending should flow naturally from the story. That's why King says he doesn't plot his stories. He doesn't figure out the ending first, he just sees where he ends up when he's done telling his story.


message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) Some good points, Nick. I do think endings are important but I was wondering if we place too much emphasis on them as readers. I guess it’s down to each reader and what they want from a story, and also down to the nature of the story itself. Some stories build and build, and almost demand a big pay-off ending. These must be tough for writers to get right, as it must be easy to go way over the top in an attempt at a memorable conclusion.


message 12: by ElleEm (new)

ElleEm | 260 comments I think too many people want the ending to tie everything up in a neat package with a bow on top and/or to end on a happy note. For the most part that is not what King does. I think that is one thing that I admire about King, that he is brave enough, truthful enough to write those endings. I can also see why people would not like this type of ending. With that being said, I do feel that he missed on a few. As Nick said above "the ending should flow naturally from the story." The Stand and Under the Dome are the two endings that don't sit too well with me but it doesn't stop me from rereading them so maybe it is more about the journey. And I would hazard a guess that The Stand is probably the most cited as being a favorite from his fans and I would guess that a lot of folks would say that the ending isn't good so that speaks volumes doesn't it?


message 13: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments I never liked the word "denouement" - all that french :-) - but that's what we're talking about, wrapping everything up, tying up all the loose ends. Dickens did that in David Copperfield I think and it seemed almost overdone. But it's still possible to come out with a satisfied feeling that things are complete, not necessarily done or finished but we get it. We understand, even if it's only that we know that things aren't resolved and might never be resolved.

I do agree with you ElleEm that it takes honesty and courage to end stories when things haven't been resolved. Where we figure we don't know what's going to happen next and it's uncomfortable, but that's how things are. So, sure let's give King and other writers credit for that. But let's give credit to writers who can give us a satisfying ending where everyone says "Wow that's it!" In TV talk it's the final episode of the Sopranos vs the final episode of Breaking Bad. In the first case, "Huh???" In the second, "Wow, they really got it right!"


message 14: by Kandice (new)

Kandice | 3968 comments I actually prefer books that do NOT end happily or tie up all loose ends when the story has not supported that. I love the endings of The Dead Zone, Carrie and Cujo to name a few that ended in tragedy. I also much prefer the novel ending of Cujo to the movie ending. That was a cop out in my opinion.

The endings I feel are crap include, but are not limited to Under the Dome, Tommyknockers, Desperation, Revival and Dreamcatcher.

I’m in another group where we have discussed the difference between our favorite King book and what we feel is the best King book. I think this debate is a bit like that. Most of us read him for the journey and it’s how we actually get there, not where we end up when we arrive.


message 15: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments Kandice wrote: "I actually prefer books that do NOT end happily or tie up all loose ends when the story has not supported that. I love the endings of The Dead Zone, Carrie and Cujo to name a few that ended in trag..."

I agree Kandice you have to read King for the journey most of the time, and I certainly agree on the King books you like and don't like. Did you see the movie La La Land? How did you like that ending?


message 16: by ElleEm (new)

ElleEm | 260 comments Kandice wrote: "I actually prefer books that do NOT end happily or tie up all loose ends when the story has not supported that. I love the endings of The Dead Zone, Carrie and Cujo to name a few that ended in trag..."

I agree that the Cujo movie ending was a cop out. The book was much better.

And I know from previous discussions that you also love The Colorado Kid because of the storytelling. I love that one too and the ending is perfect, in my opinion. That ending bothers so many people.


message 17: by Femmy (new)

Femmy | 195 comments Nick wrote: "In TV talk it's the final episode of the Sopranos vs the final episode of Breaking Bad. In the first case, "Huh???" In the second, "Wow, they really got it right!""

Ha, I was going to mention Breaking Bad too! I think the ending was great and satisfying. I haven't watched the Sopranos, but I was going to compare Breaking Bad and Dexter, which ending I think was so disappointing.


message 18: by mrbooks (new)

mrbooks | 1469 comments whether satisfying or disappointing, the end is how the Author wanted it. It is his story so it's ending is his choice. We can go into a Dark Towering Rage but it will do us no good. so sit back and enjoy the ride and let it end how it ends.


message 19: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments mrbooks wrote: "whether satisfying or disappointing, the end is how the Author wanted it. It is his story so it's ending is his choice. We can go into a Dark Towering Rage but it will do us no good. so sit back an..."

No dark tower rage from this quarter, Mr. Books.


message 20: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) No DT rage here, either - wouldn’t change anything about it. I think one of my favourite King endings is Salem’s Lot. It offers a resolution to the story, but an open-ended resolution, if that makes sense.


message 21: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) Femmy wrote: "Nick wrote: "In TV talk it's the final episode of the Sopranos vs the final episode of Breaking Bad. In the first case, "Huh???" In the second, "Wow, they really got it right!""

Ha, I was going to..."


Agree about Dexter, by the way, the end was a real let-down. In fact, the last couple of seasons saw a huge decline in quality. Six Feet Under - now that’s how you end a TV series!


message 22: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Petersen | 245 comments I think some people, not all to be sure, do expect more. My thoughts are that it's the author's book and right to end their story however they see fit.


message 23: by ElleEm (new)

ElleEm | 260 comments Doreen wrote: "I think some people, not all to be sure, do expect more. My thoughts are that it's the author's book and right to end their story however they see fit."

I agree with you. I would rather have the book as is rather than not have it at all.


message 24: by Femmy (new)

Femmy | 195 comments I think endings are just like other elements of a story, like plot, characterization, setting. When I read a story, certainly I want it to be good, with each of the elements executed well and coming together nicely. When any of them is not up to par, I think it's normal to feel disappointment.


message 25: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments Femmy wrote: "I think endings are just like other elements of a story, like plot, characterization, setting. When I read a story, certainly I want it to be good, with each of the elements executed well and comin..."

Right. That's not to say the rest of the book can't be great. and I do agree that the author has the right to end things the way he or she wants... but still the ending is one part of the story and can be judged on its own merits.


Read me two times | 56 comments What an intriguing question! I don't know if I have the answer, or if I have just one. I'll try.
I really love books, as I think everyone here, not only King's. And surely I know it's the journey more than its ending that is worth "living". So, definitely there are some books I love despite the ending (like Pride and Prejudice, but just because I really don't like happy endings) and books I like just because of their endings (Revival is one of them, and Madame Bovary, just to say two). There are book that I like entirely, journey and ending, in good times and bad times, such as Lord of the Rings or The Dark Tower (and many others).
Now that I think about it, I believe I can accept a bad book with a good ending more than the opposite... I seem to cannot forgive an author who built a beautiful "world" just to ruin it on the last pages. I can't accept that lack of "dedication" or "imagination". Maybe he/she don't know how to ending, maybe has told so many "stories" and now the sense is lost...but if he/she ever comes to this point, should simply take their time to think and get some more inspiration...

I don't know if I went too far, maybe I lost my trach too ahahah
Sorry if I sounded a bit confused!


message 27: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Petersen | 245 comments I think the one of the best ways to approach this discussion is to agree to disagree. I don't think any one way is right or wrong. It's just what works for you.


Read me two times | 56 comments Yes, I think so too...like everything book-related, it's too much personal to be universal ;)


message 29: by Matt (new)

Matt | 193 comments This is a difficult question to answer. What actually makes a bad ending? While it can frustrate me, I don't think it's a bad thing to not tie everything up neatly. Life is messy, so it can make sense to leave endings ambiguous. For me, the journey is far more important than the destination.


message 30: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) The thing is with endings is that a bad one can leave a sour taste in the mouth and potentially have a negative effect on how you reflect on the book as a whole. Books can recover from slow starts or meandering middle sections, but an end found wanting can have a lasting impact.

I know that The Stand gets a bit of criticism for its ending, but the book is of such epic scale and quality throughout that, for me, the ending couldn’t avoid but feel a little anticlimactic for some readers. It’s still an absolute classic, whichever way you look at it!


message 31: by mrbooks (new)

mrbooks | 1469 comments Anarchic Rain wrote: "What an intriguing question! I don't know if I have the answer, or if I have just one. I'll try.
I really love books, as I think everyone here, not only King's. And surely I know it's the journey m..."


OK here is the question how do you determine a bad ending what may be bad to you may not be a bad ending to me.


message 32: by Femmy (last edited Jul 23, 2018 09:23PM) (new)

Femmy | 195 comments Matt wrote: "This is a difficult question to answer. What actually makes a bad ending? While it can frustrate me, I don't think it's a bad thing to not tie everything up neatly. Life is messy, so it can make sense to leave endings ambiguous. For me, the journey is far more important than the destination. "

I don't think that a good ending has to tie everything up neatly. A good ending can be a sad ending, an ambiguous ending, or whatever, as long as it makes sense for the story.

I used to watch Law & Order every week and once in a while, the bad guy gets away with their crime. And I get it. The world isn't perfect. But one time, there were, like, two or three or four episodes in a row where the bad guys got away with it and I just couldn't take it. It was too depressing. I think I stopped watching the series regularly after that.

I think the worst type of bad endings is the deus ex machina ending, where the protagonists don't do anything to solve the problem they're facing.

The Stand is almost like that, I think. The good guys just shows up in Las Vegas and the problem is solved. They don't do anything specific to defeat RF. The only thing they have to do is just show up. Where's the fun in that?


message 33: by Tim (new)

Tim Gunter | 120 comments Femmy wrote: "Matt wrote: "This is a difficult question to answer. What actually makes a bad ending? While it can frustrate me, I don't think it's a bad thing to not tie everything up neatly. Life is messy, so i..."

The deus ex machina factor is a big reason as to why I hate the ending to The Stand. It's made worse to me by the fact that the story sets up a climactic struggle just to have the end fizzle down to chance circumstance (among other issues to me). While I enjoy the book as a whole, when I read it I find myself not caring during the third section and have to struggle my way through it. Which is kind of frustrating to me as a reader. I do know however numerous people who love the ending, so endings like books themselves will always be a subjective thing. What one loves another hates, so no real reason to me to get stuck on the subject too long.

As for ambiguous ending, that in itself kind of depends on the story. Executed well it can be perfectly fine, but I feel that sort of ending is very easy to leave a feeling of "I had no clue how to end this thing, so I'm just gonna leave it here", which is no fun at all.


Read me two times | 56 comments Ok, maybe I was misunderstood... I thought it was clear I was talking about MY opinion, I didn't want to make it general...

However, not only I hate deus ex machina, I usually hate the "happy endings". I love open endings where I can imagine the characters destiny without the author tellin me, only suggesting it...
Of course, it's my opinion. Some of my friends can't stand open endings ans want everything write out. But we're still friends :)


message 35: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments Anarchic Rain wrote: "Ok, maybe I was misunderstood... I thought it was clear I was talking about MY opinion, I didn't want to make it general...

However, not only I hate deus ex machina, I usually hate the "happy endi..."


One of the big raps on King is that he writes too many happy endings. That may have prompted his long essay on happy endings in IT, why they are always possible, and how they might even suggest the existence of God.


message 36: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Petersen | 245 comments I don't understand why this discussion is getting so "involved". There is no right or wrong. Just what you yourself prefer.


message 37: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) Doreen wrote: "I don't understand why this discussion is getting so "involved". There is no right or wrong. Just what you yourself prefer."

No-one has said there is a right or wrong, people are just giving their opinions.


message 38: by Kandice (last edited Jul 24, 2018 12:21PM) (new)

Kandice | 3968 comments 1.) I agree about the ending to the Dexter television series, but the ending to the Dexter book series was terrific!

2.) To me a bad ending is one in which the characters act in a way other than the author has taken the whole book to show us what kind of person they are. Yes, the author has every right to write what he likes, but as a reader, I don’t have to like it. When the rest of the book has been terrific it is even more disappointing to come up short with an unrealistic, too happy or deus ex machina ending.

3.) I absolutely love the ending to The Dark Tower! I am a sucker for any tale that ends in a circle. I also thought the ending to The Colorado Kid was perfect, but everyone already knows that!

4.) I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels the ending to the Cujo movie was a cheat. I always worry that makes me a mean person because who wants a child to die, but sometimes they just do and keeping them alive is dishonest!


message 39: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Petersen | 245 comments Greg wrote: "Doreen wrote: "I don't understand why this discussion is getting so "involved". There is no right or wrong. Just what you yourself prefer."

No-one has said there is a right or wrong, people are ju..."


My apologies. And like you said I was one of the people voicing my opinion. Perhaps I did it in the wrong way. I am sorry.


message 40: by Greg (new)

Greg (popzeus) Doreen wrote: "Greg wrote: "Doreen wrote: "I don't understand why this discussion is getting so "involved". There is no right or wrong. Just what you yourself prefer."

No-one has said there is a right or wrong, ..."


No problem - no need to apologise :)


Read me two times | 56 comments @Kandice: agree with all your points!
Except the ending of Dexter's books, coz I didn't read them (yet)...


message 42: by Femmy (new)

Femmy | 195 comments Kandice wrote: "1.) I agree about the ending to the Dexter television series, but the ending to the Dexter book series was terrific!"

After I finished watching Dexter on streaming, I went straight to the books. Book 1 and 2 were okay, but Book 3 was too weird for me, so I didn't continue. Glad to know that the ending is good. I might go back to the series one of these days.


message 43: by Kandice (last edited Jul 26, 2018 07:37AM) (new)

Kandice | 3968 comments Femmy wrote: "After I finished watching Dexter on streaming, I went straight to the books. Book 1 and 2 were okay, but Book 3 was too weird for me, so I didn't continue. Glad to know that the ending is good. I might go back to the series one of these days. ..."

Book three was my least favorite and very out of step with the rest. If it came out that it was actually written by someone other than Lindsey, I wouldn't be surprised.


message 44: by Femmy (new)

Femmy | 195 comments Thank you for that info, Kandice! Based on your comments, I'll definitely go back and continue the series.


message 45: by Kandice (new)

Kandice | 3968 comments Femmy wrote: "Thank you for that info, Kandice! Based on your comments, I'll definitely go back and continue the series."

You're welcome. The humor in the books is what I loved. It's a dark subject and yet Dexter's inner monologue, convincing himself he is not human, and yet appearing all the more human with every opinion he voices.


message 46: by Tim (new)

Tim Gunter | 120 comments Femmy wrote: "Kandice wrote: "1.) I agree about the ending to the Dexter television series, but the ending to the Dexter book series was terrific!"

After I finished watching Dexter on streaming, I went straight..."


Yeah book 3 is a little rough. It does get better again, though I'm personally not a big fan of the final book. It was better than the show by a long shot though, just didnt sit right with me. Sadly I cant really go into detail why though since honestly the endings to those books all feel very 'samey' to me and with how long ago it's been i mentally confuse them all in my head


message 47: by Wyatt (new)

Wyatt | 87 comments Yes. was told the ending of the Shining would be insanely scary, but I wasn’t creeped out at all throughout the whole book, which maybe bumped it down a star for me. I was expecting a jaw dropper from 11/22/63 and it definitely delivered, but if I wasn’t expecting it, it would have blown my mind out of my head.


message 48: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Freitag (truirishredhead) | 12 comments If the story is strong, the ending has to be just as strong or a bit better. I’ve read many lazy endings - where the build is so good and then 2 page climax of eh and it’s done. It feels weak; like the author sells themself short. It’s disappointing & I tend to steer clear from anything else the author does


message 49: by Kandice (new)

Kandice | 3968 comments King has admitted many,many times that he doesn't plot. He gets an idea and runs with it. I think that's why his endings are so often let downs. He is writing toward a finale, it just kind of happens.

Some authors see the ending first and then write toward that. Those are the endings that blow your socks off.

You can enjoy the journey or the destination. Seldom can you enjoy both equally.


message 50: by Nick (last edited Apr 30, 2019 09:53AM) (new)

Nick Iuppa | 3992 comments I think the non-plotted novels are more fun to write because the story unfolds before you as you go along. King compares it to digging up a dinosaur skeleton. You chip away and it reveals itself to you. It's a journey of discovery. If you're very very lucky every now and then the ending shows up too fully formed and amazing. Sometimes you think about it for days and suddenly there it is. I'm not sure this has ever happened to King, maybe. But it can happen and that's the greatest experience of all. Plotted novels are more work. You build the skeleton and then add the flesh. It's still inventing, but I doubt that the feeling of serendipity can ever be the same. On the other hand, I'm thinking that this is the way most novels are written.


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