1. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Problem with an ending

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by psychotick, May 6, 2011.

    Hi,

    I'm in the process of finishing the first draft of my next novel Dragon, and have a problem with the ending. I've got three of them.

    To give you the briefest of explanations, my MC is an orphan who's gone off on a quest to find his missing family. Big long mission after ten years of preparation, then has to fight a huge war with only one spaceship etc. You get the picture, obsessive, drug addicted, worn out hero with failing health, wins his last battle, finds family etc.

    Now the first ending I wrote was the happy one, you know survives the final heart attack, wakes in hospital, family comes in and everything's puppy dog tails. But I hated it, it was too damned syruppy.

    So then I wrote the second one, a tragic death, dies on the floor of the battleship, heart finally stopped, but died triumphant all goals completed, family back etc. I thought this was better, but I'd pee off the readers. I know when I read about the MC dying in a book it pee's me off.

    Then last night I wrote the third one, the limbo treatment. Heart attack on the bridge as before, but still triumphant, mission completed, family alive and free, war won etc, doesn't know if he'll live or not as the mechs work on him, but happy either way. I like this option best I think, but I can see some readers getting upset about not knowing.

    So my question to you is, would you be equally happy with any of these endings? Do you yearn for a happy ending? Will the MC dying heroically annoy you? Will being left hanging be a pain? Thoughts?

    Cheers.
     
  2. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Personally, I enjoy being left hanging, most of my favourite fiction does it. Feels more real to me.

    That said and done, most people that I know think I'm crazy for liking it, and enjoy a neat hero defeats villain sort of ending. Fiction isn't supposed to be real, after all. I reckon go with whatever feels right for you, not the reader, at least for your first draft. How would you like the story to end?
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say the third one is your best compromise. Make it open ended enough either side can choose to believe what they like - even if it's so blatant as having right near the end, someone saying it's a fifty fifty chance he'll live or something, and ending it there :p Or say that even if he survives his life will probably not be the same after the surgery. Like the doctors expect him to be crippled, or too sick to carry on his job or whatever.
     
  4. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    Personal preference, I hate when main characters are killed off at the end. In your case I would find it annoying, I think. You said the MCs quest was to find his family, so if he dies at the end he has essentially failed.

    How about an ending where he lives but his family does not, or an ending where he find out his family want nothing to do with him, or where he find out they're actually terrible people. If he died with that knowledge it would make it even more tragic, and if he lived it would not be as syrupy.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm always puzzled when people post questions like this. I mean, yes, I understand that one someone has trouble deciding which way to go with an ending, but the way I look at it, my writing is one of the few things I truly own. I can't imagine leaving such a fundamental decision to someone else.

    Also, consider this. People may prefer a happy ending. But that doesn't mean it's the best ending for your story. Maybe the tragic ending is the harder hitting. Look at Romeo and Juliet. It could have been written as a "happily ever after" tale, complete with flowery Shakespearian language, but it never would have had the impact that the actual work did.

    My advice is to choose your own ending, and make it the one that says what you want it to say, what you want people to remember about your work.
     
  6. TinyDancer
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    TinyDancer New Member

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    I think a bittersweet ending would work well.. he survives.. but some of his family die? a little sister dies perhaps? or a parent? or the one he loves?
     
  7. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    I like this one, too. I like bitter sweet endings that don't necessarily tie everything up in a pretty ribbon at the end. While I can say I'm a sucker for happy endings, I don't think they always do the story justice or leave a lasting impact for the reader. I think a compromise works best, which is what this ending seems to give.
     
  8. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    The limbo treatment is best. Then the reader can kind of decide themselves whether he lives or not, and being left hanging is often better than something absolute.
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I totally agree. What do you want the reader to be left with. If you had a story to tell us then you should have an idea of how you were going to end it before you started.

    The only time I can see having a problem with an ending is if you are deciding if you need a sequel or not.

    That being said, I never liked the Poe endings. If you decide to kill the MC then you can use an Epilogue to show the impact his/her death had.

    MHO
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate writing the endings, that is the most critical part for me, for me the beginning comes a lot easier. I once read someone saying "the beginning sells the book, but the end sells your next one" or something like that, which doesn't help. I also always dislike putting an end to my stories since I become so emotionally involved in the characters, and I hate saying goodbye to them. :) always wondering if the will be able to survive on their own from that moment on, hihi ;)
     
  11. tark989
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    tark989 New Member

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    Kill him. Nobody remembers the story where the MC wins every war they ever fight, though they may lose a few battles along the way, but EVERYone remembers that story wherein the MC died right at the moment of final triumph! Therefore, kill him.
     
  12. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Opinion

    Yah if you want your story to end with the greatest impact don't use half measures. Don't leave the reader lost in limbo wondering whether your character will survive or not. It sounds a bit weak to me. You as an author must be decisive. Thrust your character towards a tragic demise that will make the reader weep, or grant him a glorious victory that will make the reader rejoice. You can even mix up the emotions like others have said. He survives but somebody close doesn't. But something like ending with him in a coma with an uncertain prognosis( neither here nor there) seems like cowardice on the writer's part.

    Of course. The most important reader is you, so ask yourself when you reach the end of the book, how do YOU want to feel?
     
  13. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    When I wrote "Verbosity" I penned the masterpieces last chapter first. I knew exactly what amatuer author would die , what novice wordsmith did it...
     
  14. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    I think that you're making a mistake by only now thinking of how the ending should be.
    I always know how much stories end before I even start writing them. The ending is the goal and you have to work the story towards it.
    As for which ending to choose it depends on how you want to be perceived as an author. I myself prefer bittersweet endings, somewhere in the middle where it's not too bad but not too good either. Something like that the main character dies but at least their child survives to carry on the legacy or the planet gets destroyed but there are survivors who escaped. Those are the endings I feel the best about.
     
  15. eMotive-
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    eMotive- Member

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    A lot of the best books I read leave things in ambiguity, and it's not clear whether the MCs have died or survived.

    I think it's an interesting ending to leave things hanging, and let the reader decide for themselves. After all, when reading the book, it is the reader who creates part of that world as well, so why not give them some free reign over the outcome?
     
  16. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer the third option as well. It seems to be a good compromise.
     
  17. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    I think the third choice is the best option.
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    My only question is no one wants a happy ending? I mean what have you got against poor old Christian Aaron Moody the Third? I mean he'd a nice enough guy, possibly a little bit of a drug problem, and maybe a minor psychosis or two, but he does have the nicest toys - like huge ancient battleships! Then again I couldn't find it in my heart to give him a happy ending either - he saved his family that was enough. Maybe I need therapy!

    But you're right I think the ambiguity of the leaving him in limbo feels best. Let the reader decide.

    As for knowing the end before you start - I wish I could do that, but my writing doesn't work that way. I start with a scene somewhere in my head, it could be anywhere in the book, and then start writing it, and all around it. There's no planning. Technically I think it could be described as organic writing, psychologically it would be called disorganised if not confused, but its just the way it is.

    Cheers.
     
  19. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Read a book similar to the book your writing and see how's the ending.
     

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