1. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Ending a book with a death scene

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Phoenix Hikari, Mar 19, 2012.

    So I did the legendary leap when we write down a completely random, but crucial, scene in a book. As many are going to disapprove that I am writing my novel as a series, PM me your complains. Please, I want this thread for something else. =D

    Okay, so I was writing the last scene in the first book. It starts with funny dialogs between the protagonist and a friend of his , who's his father but is suffering memory loss and is very disfigured due to an accident, the father doesn't know his son and vise-versa. Anyway, so these two character's walk into the scene laughing to discover that the protagonist's (Kael as some of you might know him) mother was murdered. She'd hanging by a giant harpoon-like weapon from a wall.

    Here's how I went describing the scene:
    I didn't spring out and tell the reader who the dead body belong to. I just described Kael's emotions, which are very confused and in shock. He refuses to believe it's his mother no matter how hard his companion tries to knock sense into him. Anyway, so the scene closes with this sentence:

    "His hands clenched into fests… his heart poured its pain up to his throat; that night Kael’s cry tore up the sky…"

    This ends the book as well but the reader will be aware of the killer's identity. So my question: Is it okay to end a story like that? A death scene? Should I extend to the next morning and then finish or should I extend farther? I feel like the reader will be left unfulfilled if this is the way it ends.

    Help?
    Thanks!
     
  2. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    it depends what you want to do with it. as you say you want to continue it into the next book. i think it will matter how you write it. if done well it will be a good clife hanger that will leave the reader wanting more
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    For one, you must make sure that the "surprise," is not a "WTH?" surprise, but a "OMG I totally saw this coming (but I really didn't!)" surprise. If the reader knows the killer without being told, as you said, then you are at least on the right track.

    A final scene must complete the following things:
    1) the scene is a snapshot of your protagonist in the aftermath or at the very end of the main plot arc
    2) Should reveal that your protagonist has changed in his/her journey
    3) Should be slower and more reflective than most scenes, and have less action

    It sounds like you would be having the most difficulty with #3. If you can make it a slower and reflective scene, great, but that is likely going to be difficult to do if the MC's mother was just killed. You may have to "kill your darling" (i.e., let go of an idea you love) and move that plot point around to a bit earlier in the book, where there is more action.
     
  4. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    Ending a book with a death scene can be fantastic. If it fits your story. I recently finished a series that ended with a happily ever after and I was disappointed, I felt it should have been a tragedy. In that case, I don't think the ending fit the story. That said, from what you're describing, this isn't actually an ending, it's an obvious setup for the next book. In that situation, I'd be wary about doing it, in my opinion, each book in the series should be a propper story in itself, with a beginning, a middle and an end. I've never been comfortable with afterthoughts that are obvious lead-ins.
     
  5. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I think it meets the first two but like you said it's #3 that's going to be difficult. I just reread the scene and it seems to be moving quickly, even though the scenes before it or that lead to it are not unlinked to it. I haven't written these scenes but I have an idea of how they will be and I think it won't be as horrible as I am thinking when put down in words. Maybe I should proceed and add another scene, for example the funeral and in it him and this friend, the father who's undiscovered, exchange a conversation of some insight?

    That's what came to my mind at Jetshroom's comment. Many books end by death, almost all HP books ended with death but I am so uncertain about if proceeding is important or cutting it like that is okay too.
     
  6. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I honestly think that will depend on how the entire novel turns out. It may not be that bad of an idea to not leave it at such a dramatic end and extend it just a little farther. Then again, it may stop seeming as what it is, a tie in and just some last minute thrill if you extend it. So, it really depends on the rest of the piece. Which means I'm not very helpful.
     
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    All the HP potter books that included death included it in or before the climax scene, not the last scene:
    #4: Cedric Diggory dies at the start of the climactic graveyard scene. #5: Sirius Black dies toward the middle of the climactic Ministry of Magic scene. #6 Dumbledore dies toward the end of the climactic scene where the Death Eaters attack Hogwarts. #7 Harry himself "dies" in the scene before the "All Hope Is Lost" scene, and then it is Voldemort who dies in the climactic final-battle scene.

    Maybe putting the death in the climactic scene will feel better in your story, and then having the last 3-5 scenes or so wrap up the rest of the story as well as reflect on the death itself. That's pretty much what they do in HP, and is pretty standard in most books.

    On writing structure: The question is, in large part, whether or not to follow what is generally structurally expected. Deviate from "standard" structure too much, and your story runs the risk of not being picked up by a publisher. Following structure doesn't mean your story is going to be predictable, because it is just a format. Think of the 5-paragraph essay format; easily millions of essays have been written in this format, and they differ wildly in style, content, etc. So it is with story structure.

    But my #1 rule in writing: Whatever Works.
     
  8. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I don't like this as the last sentence of a book at all. It sounds too dramatic, may be because the scene itself is too dramatic. Ending scenes which are devoid of drama yet significant in the context of the story tend to have more impact. This is not to say that you can never have death in the end scene.
     
  9. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I was thinking the same thing. That I might just move on to the funeral and the MC has the chance to discuss this with his friend and draw out some points that keep the reader's interest as well as drop hints for the next book.

    This scene is an important turn in the plot, it changes many things for both the MC and the murderer. It might sound tragic, because the MC is not an emotional kind of person and I don't know, maybe it does sound tragic. :(
    I'm still pondering this.
     
  10. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    It sounds like Killbill said that it sounds too tragic to be the last scene. If your planning on moving this, then it solves that problem, because it is no longer the last scene.

    That sounds good!

    A lot of writers on here will say that you shouldn't drop ANY hints if you want to get published. I say do whatever works for the story, and worry about that stuff once your story is ready to be published. "Hints" implies that there are multiple things you are hinting at, and it might be more poignant if you choose your most enticing hint and hit on it once.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I did with my really tragic ending (seriously, I'd killed 20 children, my protagonist and antagonist had both lost, the former curled up and couldn't die because he was immortal, and the latter flew off into the distance in a slightly better state than him) I added a scene one year later which offered some hope for my protagonist.

    Maybe you could do a chapter/epilogue a little bit in the future showing a snapshot into your MCs life? That way those that want the tragic ending can leave it and those that can't take it can turn the page.

    But ... if your story calls for a powerful, tragic ending just leave it. Nothing annoys me more than a book with an ending that doesn't fit.
     
  12. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I do feel that this ending is exactly what I want. The fact that everything is hanging unsolved because the story itself is full of suspense and mysterious events. I'm planning to write that scene so that the reader is completely astonished in both realizing who died and how the protagonist is effected by it. I want them to read it, reach the ending and then go back to read it again just to make sure they didn't miss anything. That's why I started the scene in a casual way.

    I really don't want to be forced to extend to another scene, personally, it doesn't serve me a purpose but if ending like this is harsh or annoying then I'll have to.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make it the right ending for the story.

    I added the epilogue because I'd ended the story in the right place, but the readers found it a bit too soul destroying and wanted a tiny shred of hope of my protagonist.

    However, there is nothing worse than reading a gripping roller-coaster book and have it go out in a damp squib. I'd rather have a sad or difficult ending.
     
  14. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    So you suggest that I end it with the death scene and not extend any farther??
     
  15. Asaph Judea Wagner
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    Asaph Judea Wagner Member

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    End it with the death scene. I don't like books in a series ending with a cliff hanger, but I like it when they end with a watercooler moment, something I'll be talking with other people who read it. With the death scene, I'll probably stay and read the next part not because I have to know what happened in general, but what happened to my so lovelable characters.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If that is right for the book yes.

    I read a book called Brother's Bishop by Bart Yates a few years ago and had an amazing rollercoaster ride reading it, I could barely catch my breath at times. It had the most limp wristed ending I have ever read in a book. A tragic ending would've been much better. It ranks as the single most disatisfying ending I have ever read and yet the book otherwise would've been one of the best books I had ever read. I have never forgiven him for that ending lol
     
  17. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    It depends on how it's executed. I'm not a fan of books that end on a cliffhanger. At the same time, I'm ready to be shown that it can be done right. If adding another scene feels forced, perhaps it's best not to include it.
     

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