?

I think the ending

  1. is fine as described

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  2. would annoy me to no end

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  3. could be worked (details/suggestions below )

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    The end...?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ms. DiAnonyma, Feb 5, 2016.

    So, a new conundrum cropped up in my mind as I read through King Arthur's post about writing a series all in one go- am I writing mine with enough closure to be considered stand alones? (I'm also looking at a trilogy, and though probably not of quite such epic proportions, probably each around 100k). But where I'd thought to end the first story now seems not such a good point for the reader.

    Each of the three books deals with two main characters, members of a family that was split/dispersed in the wake of a political disaster.

    The first is about two of the children who escape together, the brother trying to make an almost normal life for his sister and himself. The sister, partly because of him and others, partly herself, manages to succeed more or less- but the brother, not so much; he's forever trying to figure out his identity and purpose in life (along with trying to find family again). In the end, he doesn't find them, but thinks he's got the purpose part when he sees how his death can save someone else, and resolves/resigns himself to it. So, he goes on the suicidal mission, gets captured, and fully expects to die. When his comrades recover him, they think he's dead. His enemies think he's dead. The reader is supposed to think he's dead.

    But...
    The story's not over, as the different members of the family do start finding each other, (including him)- in the second and third book.

    So, as a reader, how disappointed would you be if I ended the first book with him as good as dead? Or you'd just learned that he'd survived? It sounds pretty unsatisfactory that way, though the point is that he finally reaches that point of resignation- then he can find his family and purpose.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
     
  2. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Okay the reason I say it would annoy me to no end is because you would be selling it to me as a single book not a trilogy. If it was shown to me as a trilogy it wouldn't be as bad. But me personally I had books that end with a main beloved character dying. It pisses me off. I probably wouldn't read the next one. If such an important character dies in the first book what kind of morbid crazy deaths will be in the others? Maybe if you do package it as a trilogy you could give a little sneak snipped at the end showing he wasn't dead. Then I personally would continue reading.
     
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  3. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I never read sneak-previews to the next novels. They annoy me ;)

    @Ms. DiAnonyma you will not please everyone, remember that. If you end the book with him being called to the firing-squad and the last sentence was of him leaving the building, the reader would be left hanging. He wouldn't actually KNOW that this MC is going to die, even if it is strongly suspected. But what you definitely should say is that this is a trilogy. I would advertise that strongly, so the reader expects more books. There are not many novels around where a beloved MC (and from what I gather this first book would be almost exclusively about this one MC) dies and the book ends in disaster. And it would not disappoint too much if the reader actually thought the MC is going to die (I think) because the death would serve a strong purpose.

    My five cents>
     
  4. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Oh of course I don't mean a literal sneak-preview. I meant like a very vague "uh guys he's alive" at the end of the book. Like how in movies they do that cheesy "And he opened his eye!" Not that exactly of course, but you get the gist.

    I do agree that no one can be pleased though. Maybe this is a perfectly fine dramatic end for some readers. I personally just hate deaths thrown in at the end of books. -coughcoughthehungergametrilogycoughcough-
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Hm. I am just now thinking through it and I think it would take away drama. I am the "master of drama" here, so I can think of lots and lots of ways to make that end even stronger, even more emotionally engaging.

    Maybe.. I don't know how @Ms. DiAnonyma plans this end. Maybe end the book with him and his antagonist at the time in a face-to-face meeting, the MC making his last proud speech, expecting to be shot down immediately for his daring and defiance. But then the antagonist says something like, "Oh I won't shoot you. Not yet."
    This way the reader would definitely know that the MC was still around. :)
     
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  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have a problem with him ending the first book dead.

    My problem is Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower.

    It does sound like Deus ex Machina if somehow he's managed to survive the firing squad, no matter how you explain it. I didn't like it when Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes back from the Reichenbach Falls, I didn't like it when Jules Verne did it with one of his characters. I just don't like it!
     
  7. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Thanks for the input, @Shadowfax, @dedebird, and @Lifeline!

    I guess I should specify how he "dies" a little better.
    First, it isn't by shooting (squad or otherwise) ;-)

    He expects to die when he volunteers for an intelligence-gathering mission that the previous three or four agents didn't come back from. But he knows that once it's put out there, this other guy will go for it, trying to redeem himself from an earlier mistake- and will probably get killed without getting the information they need. So, our MC goes, does the reconnaissance, and just manages to send the info back with the courier as the enemy discovers them. Of course, as the other guy's got the info, it's imperative that he get away- so our MC diverts the chase to himself, and gets captured (by the enemy army). After the good guys retake the city, the other agents ask to go find out what happened to their buddies. They plan to get into the camp via the "dead" cart- which the enemy army uses to drop off all their dead outside of the camp to be burned. They find our MC there because an enemy doctor was supposed to assess him for further questioning (torture), but felt sorry for him, and gave him a low dose of poison that was supposed to just kill him (instead only rendered him unconscious). In getting the MC, they capture the doctor (who was sent on the onerous job of taking the corpses for failing to "save" the prisoner), but he gets knocked out before he can tell them that the MC might not be dead. They get to find that out on their own, on the last page of the book, as the friend (who's actually a doctor) realizes he does have a pulse, and not all's yet over...

    Sorry for the length, do the details make any difference?
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Uhm.. I do not intend to knock your idea, but is that convoluted plot actually necessary? Okay, I have been accused of being minimalistic a time or two :rolleyes: but for tension wouldn't it be better to just break off just before the supposed torture starts? This would certainly circumvent the problem you have.

    You might also consider that someone to just starting to 'feel sorry' for a random enemy (but if he knows him personally before this hell starts, then yeah of course he would) might need to a better explanation ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If through another event in the first novel, or alluding to it, there is a hint or suggestion that the main character may not be dead...even if it's one character not willing to accept it...then I think you're okay.

    That's my two cents.
     
  10. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    @Lifeline
    Necessary? Probably not... If you're the master of minimalism, I'm the queen of convolution. (Or at least attempts to pull off complicated stories).

    I could end at that point- but I think I'd rather not, as that would leave more to be explained later (In book 2). Yes, the doctor does know this guy from before- though not much. He's also a more sensitive character, who never wanted to be a medic (pretty raw recruit at this point). He's pretty sick of his situation and his officers- so his act of pity almost adds up to an act of defiance. And he happens to be the MC's brother (neither realize that till later of course).

    Thanks, @TWErvin2, I was considering that
     
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  11. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Probably a good combination then :D

    It reads to me as if you have thought it through really well, that is good! I just have high standards in characterization but it sounds like you will meet them. Good for you! Will look with interest to your finished novel :)
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi, @Ms. DiAnonyma - I'm going to ignore the ins and outs of your particular plot, because how you solve this problem is something you, the writer, needs to decide. I'm not a fan of writing by committee.

    However, if you do plan to sell your first book as a stand-alone—and not advertise the fact that it's a trilogy—it's got to stand alone.

    That means all the plot threads you started have to be drawn together, with purpose, somewhere before the end. You don't need to construct a happy-ever-after ending, but your reader does need to walk away knowing that they've read a good story, and that it has come to a satisfactory and inevitable conclusion. They'll be eager to read your next book because you're such a good writer, not because they need to find out what happened next.

    If you're selling your story as a three-parter, however, you can end with: To be continued.... The reader will be satisfied, no matter how you've ended it, because they know there's more to come.

    End on a cliffhanger ...will he or won't he die? Or an upbeat note that makes the reader want to continue following his life story ...oh, he didn't die—yay!—but nobody else knows he's alive. Or on a downer. He died—but the book was so good, the reader will buy the next book, even though the ending was depressing. They'll know the bigger story isn't finished. Kind of like Song of Ice and Fire, when Eddard dies.

    When they discover at the start of the next book that your character—unlike Eddard—is still alive, that will be a bonus.

    At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, we all thought Gandalf was dead. I mean really dead. It was awful to process the loss of such a great character, but because we knew there were two more books, we wanted to keep reading and follow the other characters and the fate of the Ring. Having Gandalf pop up alive again in the middle of The Two Towers was one of those stunningly unexpected and welcome moments Tolkien was so good at creating. If we had watched Gandalf die, however, and didn't know there were any more books to come? That would have been ...weird.

    Of course Tolkien published all three volumes of his story at the same time, so everybody knew the story wasn't finished at the end of Fellowship. The Fellowship of the Ring was never marketed as a stand-alone book.
     
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  13. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Thanks @jannert!

    Mostly I'm looking to see how ticked off readers would be with a not-really-dead ending.

    Yes, I'd certainly rather readers pick up the second book because the first was good, not just to end the suspense. I guess my main fear is that it will appear too Deus ex machina if it pops up in the next book, but will confuse the reader if he doesn't actually die in the first one. 'Wait, he's finally ready to die, and he finds a purpose in his death- but he survived? Why?'
     
  14. Cattlebruiser
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    Cattlebruiser Member

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    Wahey!
    All of this is my personal opinion. Take with salt n pepper.
    First off, if you fear the Deus ex machina, then stay away from too decisive stuff like "Then John died."
    If you weave it carefully, you can create a scenario where someone is just given the "dead" tag- but later if you were to "revive" them, anyone who opens the previous book would actually say "John didn't die!" Something like super near-death and the typical "Someone picked them up and healed them blah blah" It works if you don't make it sound too obvious. Heh. I've met my fair share of "They didn't die!?" moments. All were great except for a couple.
    Also what people say it's true. The book has to be able to stand on its own. If you have in mind that the reader needs to read the triology to understand it all, then it will leave a bitter taste after each read. Ie: The Good The Bad and The Infernal left a bitter taste in my mouth because the last chapter was pretty much "The adventure just began!"
    The heck was I reading then?
     
  15. Fernando.C
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    Fernando.C Active Member

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    Well, I would be ok with either ending as long as they're well written. If I was writing this book though I would want to end the first book on some suspense, I'd put small, subtle hints that he just might survive without making anything certain. but that's just me and I like to torture my readers :bigwink:.

    I do think that you should definitely advertise your book as the first of a trilogy, the readers need to know that the story is not finished with the first book. This way they won't be left unsatisfied if you choose to end it in a cliffhanger.

    As others said though, you can never satisfy everyone. No matter what ending you end up choosing, someone somewhere would still find issues with it, so I'd say go with the ending that satisfies YOU.
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If I might add another suggestion here. If you do decide to market it as a trilogy, but aren't sure where the split should come, you could just keep writing as if it's all one very long book. Worry about how/where to split it when you're finished. You will have a better idea of where the breaks should come once you see the whole story written out. Plus you'll know you really HAVE written a trilogy, and not run out of steam partway through.
     
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  17. King Arthur
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    King Arthur Banned

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    All people die. Why refuse to read a lot of good books because the main character dies in it?
     
  18. King Arthur
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    King Arthur Banned

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    The only reason Conan did it was literal mobs formed outside his house because he'd killed him off, IIRC one deranged fan even tried to murder his wife!
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Be sure to keep your home address a secret! :)
     
  20. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Because I live in real life and it sucks. Why would I pay for, and then spend all my free time reading about how much reality sucks. No thanks I'll go read a good feeling fantasy fluff peace.
     
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  21. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I can totally understand that! I also need books with a happy ending .. but these are not fluffy in between. I am the master of tension :eek: and the evil-overlord of my own books :twisted: and if I read someone elses books I crave the same kind of stuff. No pink fluffy clouds for me during! After the endgame is settled we can talk about a rose tinge :D
     
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  22. King Arthur
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    King Arthur Banned

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    So essentially, denial...
     
  23. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    No. Just hope.
     
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  24. King Arthur
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    King Arthur Banned

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    As Orwell tried to tell us, there's no hope if people don't accept hard truths.
     
  25. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Funny, Orwell's endings tend to be the ones I dislike (1984, Animal Farm) . I understand the warning element- but why paint failure as an inevitable consequence?

    Still, there's got to be a convincing amount of difficulty for the characters to endure, reassuring the reader that they're not the only ones life is hard on.
     

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