Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE ESSENTIALS OF A GOOD ENDING

I've been thinking about endings lately. My middle grade novel RUN!!! will have a surprise at its close. The surprise has to be believable and right in the guts of it--the guts being the story.

A good ending has to pull together all the elements in the story in a satisfying way and end it, if not with a twist, with a punch. It has to be believable. It has to be told in the tone of the story and it has to extend the reader beyond the story--into the future.

Here are a couple of endings which fit those criteria. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd about a teenage girl from the south fleeing the abusive T. Ray, looking for a mother in the desperate days just before blacks were given the vote.

"This is the autumn of wonders, yet every day, every single day, I go back to that burned afternoon in August when T. Ray left. I go back to that one moment when I stood in the driveway with small rocks and clumps of dirt around my feet and looked back at the porch. And there they were. All these mothers. I have more mothers than any girl off the street. They are the moons shining over me."

"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro about a butler in a proper English household trying to shed a lifetime of rigidity which has denied him happiness. One of the symbols of this rigidity is his inability to "banter."

"It occurs to me, furthermore, that bantering is hardly an unreasonable duty for an employer to expect a professional to perform. I have of course already devoted much time to developing my bantering skills, but it is possible I have never previously approached the task with quite the commitment I might have done. Perhaps, then, when I return to Darlington Hall tomorrow--Mr. Farraday himself will not be back for a further week--I will begin practicing with renewed effort. I should hope, then, by the time of my employer's return, I shall be in a position to pleasantly surprise him."

Finally, "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte about the doomed love affair between Heathcliff and his beloved Cathy narrated by Heathcliff's tenant, Lockwood.

"My walk home was lengthened by a diversion in the direction of the kirk. When beneath its walls, I perceived decay had made progress, even in seven months--many a windows showed black gaps deprived of glass; and slates jutted off, here and there, beyond the right line of the roof, to be gradually worked off in coming autumn storms.

"I sought, and soon discovered, the three head-stones on the slope next the moor --the middle on grey, and half buried in the heath--Edgar Linton's only harmonized by the turf and moss, creeping up its foot--Heathliff's still bare.

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

What are your favorite endings and what makes them good and right?

4 comments:

Brit said...

Most endings I've read recently have been neat endings, but nothing that really got me. Craig Ferguson's "Between the Bridge and the River" . . .when the end came, everything finally made sense and I got it. I was very satisfied. There was an "Aha" moment.

Heidi said...

I used to love "real" ending, and hanging ones, but lately I really like when everything ends nicely and happily, but maybe unexpectedly.

Like Brit said: the Aha moment.

I just finished Q&A, and that was an awesome ending I didn't see coming. Maybe not realistic, but I loved it.

I love endings where you think there really can't be a way it can end happily, and yet the author manages to pull it off. Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With sticks out since I just read that one. A girl stuck between two people she loves. She can't have them both, so you know no matter which way it goes, she's going to have a broken heart. But in the end, she doesn't.

Kerri said...

I wish we all lived closer and could swap books. I have to buy everything b/c the libraries really don't offer much.

Sounds like you've all done some great reading. I need to catch up.

marsh to the fore said...

I'm lucky to have a lot of books sitting around I've never read or if I've read them it was years ago.

I was amazed at how Wuthering Heights ended. No Hollywood ending, just a suggestion of what would come.