1. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    How would you feel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by picklzzz, Feb 6, 2012.

    Hi All,

    I've always read that readers don't always want a perfect outcome to the end of a story, and in fact, there could be / should be loose threads. I am writing a novel right now, and not that all the characters are good or anything, but I'm trying to really characterize some of them so that the reader grows attached to them. However, the ending I have is good and bad. How do you feel when something bad happens to a character at the end of a story? Do you end up hating the whole story?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Not if it were done well.
     
  3. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    It depends.

    If something bad happens to a character without a good reason, or a good effect, I end up not liking the story. If a bad thing happens for a good reason, or it has a profound effect on the plot or other characters, then I'm fine with it.

    Just my own opinion.
     
  4. 160thSOAR
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    160thSOAR Member

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    Normally, readers don't tend to like it when a story ends in a way that is inconclusive. As a reader, I hate loose ends far more than what happens to a particular character.

    To use the Inheritance series as an example:
    Christopher Paolini had been hinting at a romance between two of the protagonists, Eragon and Arya, for most of the four-book-long series. Throughout all of the books, nothing conclusive ever happened between them. Most readers were expecting something to go on that would either seal the deal one way or the other, but at the end of the fourth book, there was nothing but the same old indecisive shlock. I'm not aware of anyone who was actually happy with this ending, and most people disliked it quite a bit.

    Moral of the story: I don't believe people care which way you go, but at least make your ending decisive. Don't leave the reader hanging, and they'll be happy.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Many great books have win/lose endings. What matters is how skillfuilly it was written. You can leave the reader satisfied with a huge sacrifice if the corresponding victory remains satisfying.

    You can even have a satisfying story with a Pyrrhic victory. Again, skill of the writer.
     
  6. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    I've always heard that an Emotional response is a good response. Love it or Hate it, if it inspires a reaction that strongly, it's been done well.

    Vague indistinct endings are a different thing. For me, for the overall book, I don't like it. But, for smaller, individual sections of the book, I think it can work really well. It leaves the book open to interpretation.

    For my example, I'm going to use Harry Potter.
    Severus Snape's revelation in the last book inspired a lot of controversy. Some people thought it ruined Snape. (Myself included.) Others thought it was the perfect way to go.

    From speaking to people in both camps I've come to the conclusion that the ones who liked it were the ones who didn't like that snape was ambiguous. They thought okay, Snape is Evil, or okay, Snape is good. Not, he's just some guy who doesn't like Harry Potter.

    Personally, I feel that the whole sequence detracted from the Snape character and undid all the work JK did to make him ambiguous, but it can't be denied, that it had a lot of people talking.

    I think what I'm trying to say is that if your reader forms an emotional attachment to the character, you've done your job, and that probably won't be undone by the ending.
     
  7. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I remember when I read the book "It" by Stephen King (in two days - I couldn't put it down) and the characters all forgot what happened and each other at the end. I felt very upset by it, but I'll never forget it either. I think he left it open for interpretation but also tied some things up.

    In my book, the main two characters find out what's going on when they track down the person responsible. However, when they leave, their memories are reset to an earlier time (the theme of my story is mind control) and they think they've just seen a bad zombie movie. They get a call to meet friends at a bar, including the two whose deaths have been the main plot of the book. So, these people are suddenly alive, which should set the reader ablaze at how it's possible, but the main characters, who have been investigating their friends' deaths the entire book, have no idea anything was ever wrong. The ending is bittersweet - the main characters end up together, but the reader realizes that no one is safe if someone ever actually developed the technology proposed in this story. In the last scene, the bad guy and his protoge meet somewhere else to start the next phase of human trials.

    I hope this will leave the reader thinking, if anything. To me, that's a successful story. Also, if they remember it later on or want to talk about it with others. When I saw Donnie Darko, my boyfriend and I talked about it for a long time and finally went online to see what others had to say. It kept me thinking for at least a week or two afterwards.
     
  8. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Nah, I hated the ambiguity - it kept us guessing the whole series, which was good, but if she hadn't finally revealed which side he was really playing for, I'd have flung the book against the wall in a right pissy. Coz all along I had the conviction that snape was loyal to Dumbledore, and despite the fact that he genuinely hated Harry (who wouldn't? irritating little bastard) I just had a feeling that he was the only one Dumbledore really confided in. He was never a double agent, he was always Dumbledore's man, and I felt rather vindicated by the ending - although the slushy backstory about him and Lily Potter made me want to vomit, and was totally unnecessary. She coulda just said he was jealous of James Potter coz he was a popular boy and a bully, but he knew he had to save Harry because he was the 'chosen one' and Dumbledore was using him (Harry) to defeat Voldemort. No need for all that 'because I loved your mum' stuff.

    Anyway, I digress.

    I don't mind a bittersweet ending, or even an ambiguous one, but I hate dangling plot threads that just don't go anywhere. They may not be fully resolved, but there has to be the sense that it is going SOMEWHERE. When plot threads just die a death and are never heard of again I just get irritated.
     
  9. Jamez
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    Jamez Member

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    If the ending was satisfying, then no. For example, I can very well imagine a story of great tribulation where the hero dies just before achieving his ultimate goal that makes for a very satisfying read - I can also imagine how the same scenario would leave me pissed with the writer for wasting my precious time. The crux, I think, is in that "the journey is the reward" thing: it doesn't really matter where you take me as the reader, it's how you get me there!
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends. In my story, the villain nearly dies but in the last moment he gets rescued by someone who abandoned him years ago. One of the antagonists ends up manipulating the situation so that, even though the protagonist and allies seem to have thwarted the evil organisation, the antagonist manages to steal something that will enable her to resurrect all that, and put herself in charge of it even (in the next book). But the disaster is averted in any case and nobody knows about this leftover problem except for the reader. Protagonist comes to terms with a couple of personal issues, but a few more remain unresolved. And as it is, it can be a stand alone book, I think, but the unresolved issues also lend themselves to a sequel.
    I think "loose threads" refer to issues which are never followed up in the story. But as long as they are followed up, even though the resolution is not black and white, it will still satisfy the reader.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a good writer can pull it off... lessers ones may not...
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Assuming it's done well (and, after all, isn't that we all strive for?), my emotions might be wrenched, but then that's an indication that the author has done good work. If anything, it makes me appreciate the work that much more. I remember watching the film, "Only the Lonely" with my wife. There's a point in the film after neither he nor she showed up at the wedding at which you see Danny going across the street for his morning roll and coming back to have breakfast with his mother, just as he always has done. That's where I would have ended the story. It would have been sad. A lot like life sometimes is.
     

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