Writing … ‘the end’

All That Mullarkey - an epilogue with a quirk

This post is based on my recent contribution to the Spike the Cat blog.

I’m a writer – and a reader – that likes a satisfying ending that ‘pays off’. Open endings are not for me and, to be honest, I usually think they’re a bit of a cheat.

As I write a lot of romantic fiction, hero and heroine will get together or there will be hope of them getting together. What the reader wants to see is how, and if I can make them believe that the final obstacles between the characters and happiness are insurmountable. The trick is to make the characters believe that they’re insurmountable, too!

I’m quite a fan of epilogues, which allow readers to extend their enjoyment of the Happy Ever After ending. The end of the final chapter contains the drama of heroine and hero finally reaching out to each other, then the Epilogue shows some aspect of their happiness in practice, so that reader feels secure in leaving, having peeked behind the final curtain to see that the characters are going to be OK. In many romantic novels, the hero and heroine’s wedding is shown in the Epilogue but I haven’t thought that the right way for me to end a novel, yet, because my heroes tend to be unpredictable. All That Mullarkey, which comes out on 1 June 2010, contains a quirk in the Epilogue that echoes something in the Prologue – and it’s a quirk that’s so typical of mercurial Justin that when it occurred to me I ran upstairs and rewrote the whole Epilogue in order to include it. It suits Justin, it suits the book and it provides a circular element, which means that although the readers have been on a journey with the characters, they feel they’re leaving by the door by which they came in. This, too, provides a lot of reader satisfaction.

In Starting Over, the Epilogue is from Ratty’s point of view. To be honest, I wondered how readers – and Choc Lit, the publisher! – would feel about this. Would they want Tess to take centre stage? Or to see Tess and Ratty together? What I chose, instead, was for Ratty to let others know how things had worked out for them and how that made him feel.

It wasn’t surprising that Tess was unwilling to rely on a man, having been minced up pretty thoroughly by the dastardly Olly, but she’d upset a few key people with the way she’d reacted to trouble, so I also wanted them – and the readers – to understand her very individual reaction to trouble.

When readers put down my books after the final page, I want them to feel satisfied. And maybe a bit sorry that the book is over.

You can read more about my take on endings – and pretty much everything else – in Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction.

Writing the ending to Love Writing was an adventure in itself. I hadn’t written a non-fiction book before and wasn’t sure how to do so without characters to pull the final curtain for me. In the end, I just checked that I’d told the reader everything I possibly, possibly could!

And said goodbye.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Writing … ‘the end’

  1. Do people still actually type THE END?

    I never do. If it’s a piece of journalism, I might type END COPY for the sake of the receiving editor, with the word count, and if it’s fiction, I usually either leave it blank or type in the word count.

    Sorry I didn’t make it over to Northampton’s Waterstones on Saturday, btw. I was horribly sick all weekend, along with my husband and kids, and am still a bit wobbly. Hope it went well …

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    • Poor you, re the sicky bug, Jane! I hope you recover soon. Maybe I’ll catch you when I promote the next book – I think Waterstones in Northampton would like me to return.

      I always put ‘ends’ at the end of any manuscript, whatever it’s for. What are people saying about it on the US blogs? That you should or shouldn’t make it plain the ms has ended? I see a lot of mss from students, competition entrants and those who wish and appraisal and, occasionally, I’m caught out by a page with a wide margin at the bottom and try to scroll down to see if there are any more pages to come. Maybe ‘ends’ is becoming old fashioned but I find it useful when I’m the reader.

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  2. You are so right – the end of a good book is a ‘little death’. An epilogue salves the pain, a little.

    I’m a reader too, an avid one, and need to have a feeling of conclusion and satisfaction. I find an epilogue a natural way to tie up those little loose ends that the reader would want to know.

    I also pepper my epilogue with hints to intrigue the reader about what could happen in the next part of the trilogy I’m writing…

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  3. Sorry, I know that wasn’t quite the point of your post! Only I’ve seen it mentioned several times recently on US writing blogs and am now beginning to wonder if people really do still write THE END at the end of their mss. 😉

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  4. Hello Sue – think we corresponded many moons ago. Nice to meet you on good old WordPress. Like your ideas on endings. I enjoy those that round off the story but also like anything (inc epilogue) that reminds us these are ‘real’ (!) people whose lives will go on.
    Will be visiting again!
    AliB

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  5. I think it must be rather sad if it’s not fairly obvious that the story has ended. After all, there’s no THE END in a book, lol, though there may well be other writing after that last page proper. I can’t recall any specific blog references to writing those actual words, but have seen it mentioned as a normal part of writing a book on a couple of US-based writers’ blogs in the past year.

    I’m not keen on epilogues myself, unless it’s a necessary one or two pager to point forward to, say, a child being born safely or a promised wedding coming about. I can see why they’d be useful in a series or trilogy, but to be brutally frank, there’s a point where a story has ended, and after that, the reader’s interest wanes. Some epilogues or final chapters go on way past that point and, largely because of that, fail to produce the same emotional and cathartic impact on a reader that the sharper and perhaps more old-fashioned ‘over and out’ endings did.

    In fact, I suspect that some epilogues may exist merely to indulge the writer who doesn’t wish to say farewell to his or her story. 😉

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