Thursday, September 8, 2011

Your Novel’s Goodbye

When you leave loved ones are you a clinger? Do you grip tightly, hanging on for dear life while bawling an ocean onto their shoulder?

Or are you an “I’m outta here, see ya” scooter, avoiding an overflow of gushy emotion?

Have you ever thought the way you handle your real life goodbyes might correlate with how you write your novel goodbyes—the way you choose to end your works?

Do you rush, resulting in a speedy, clipped ending? Is it important for you to tie up all your conflicts with a perfect bow? Or are you methodical as you carefully select your adieu? Are you intentional about your endings, working hard to leave a lasting impression?

Something to think about, isn’t it?

Something else to think about:

“Readers hate to be left hanging and, in the end, their natural impulse is to applaud, so make it easy for them to do that. In a story about love triumphing over adversity, for example, readers should be shown (not told) the triumph. Stories focusing on character are really focusing on personality, the psyche, the soul. Endings that work best for examinations of character often come right out of life: dialogue that gives the character pause to reflect: a repeated image that has assumed significance for the protagonist; a journey of escape—or better yet—a journey of challenge.” Michael Orlofsky (from The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing)

Here are a few questions your readers might be asking after they’ve read your last word:

Was that time well spent?
Did the novel conclude with a satisfying resolution?
Will I care about these characters or think about them again in the future?
Am I missing the book already?
Did I learn anything from reading this work?
Would I recommend this work to others?
Was I sufficiently entertained?
And I’m sure we all hope readers would think...When will I get to see them again (either the characters in a sequel or a new set of characters in a future novel)?
Are you demonstrating your ‘I love you’ to your readers on your last page?

*photo from Flickr


Keli Gwyn said...

I've heard that beginnings are important because they help sell the book and that endings are important because they help sell the next book. I keep that in mind as I'm writing mine. Since I write romance, I know what most readers expect: a Happy Ever After ending. That's what I like, too, and what I endeavor to provide. I also like to tie up any loose threads and leave the reader feeling satisfied and eager to enjoy another of my stories. Readers rock, and I want mine to be happy.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Wendy, I enjoyed this post. Since I have yet to write my first "The End," I haven't thought about the tone of my ending. Thanks for giving me lots to think about. I love the idea of "demonstrating to my readers" that I love them.

Joanne Sher said...

Oh - great thoughts, Wendy! Need to think this through for sure.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great, great post, Wendy! Love this.

Jennifer K. Hale said...

The list of questions is great! It's a good idea to consider each one as we're writing. I definitely want readers to think about my characters again--to wish that they goodbye wasn't really the end of the story. :) Great post!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Great thoughts, Wendy!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Keli, Great way to see it...readers rock. I want mine to be happy too!

Jeanne, Thanks. Hope some of these thoughts come to mind when you are typing your last words (for your novel and not your life). ;)

Joanne, My mind seems to breed questions by the minute. Always gives me something to think about.

Thanks Sarah & thanks for the RT!

Jennifer, That's how it was for me with The Help. I couldn't stop wondering about those characters, and then to see the movie. It only added to my involvement with them.

Mary, Right on.

So long, farewell. Oh, I'm only playing.

~ Wendy

Naomi Rawlings said...

Those are some really great thoughts about the ending. I'm definitely the tie-it-up-in-a-bow, get-it-perfect type.

However, when my agent first read my ms, she suggested I change the ending to make it more powerful. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with her. So my perfect ending got changed into a more perfect ending. ;-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Wendy, those are great questions - I hope people who read my stories feel all those things. I guess that's why I spend so much time crafting characters and making them relatable, because I want readers to root for them and their happy ending.

Jonz V. Stoneroad said...

My final scene is both cathartic and reaches the end of the climax with character development, plot resolution, and of course, the reveal of the protagonist's "Real goal" as opposed to his "False goal".

It is in the denouement where I "tease" them with the sequel. So there are no "real goodbyes"; just yet.