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.