Friday, May 14, 2010

Free Book Friday, and How Finding the Perfect Ending for your Book is like Shopping for the Perfect Bra

Today I'm giving away a signed copy of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's book BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.

Find out how to enter at the end of the post. (It will involve leaving a comment). 

So, the other day I tweeted about how I'm rewriting the ending to my book:

Revisions: I tried a new ending on for size yesterday. It was a little snug and a quite itchy. I hate shopping for endings. Harsh lights.
Trying on a different ending today. Gonna avoid all three-way mirrors until I get it right. #revisionsareitchy

And my friend Leisha Maw responded with this:
@Brodiashton i hate shopping for endings, too. It's like bra shopping-uncomfortable.

And I realized she's exactly right. Finding the perfect ending is like finding the perfect bra:

1. Sometimes you have to try on a few before you get one that fits.

     I'm on my third ending. The first one felt like a marshmallow bra. The second, like a wool boulder holder. The third one might be just right.

2. The perfect ending/bra must uplift (and separate). 

  This is not to say all endings must be happy, but they must satisfy the reader, and fulfill any promises that were put forth in the beginning of the book. 

ex: In Harry Potter, not everyone makes it out alive, but you can be sure Harry finally finds the place where he belongs.

3. The perfect ending/bra must have (underwire) support.

     The rest of the book provides the foundation for the ending, so when that last page comes, you don't have to be Houdini to make it work. 

     For instance, if you get to the end of your contemporary realistic book, and you find the only way your dream ending can happen is if a dragon flies into town and brings with him an alternate universe, you have a problem.  

4. Little irritations in an ending/bra can become huge rashes, but not every clasp needs to be done up.

     You don't have to tie every loose end in a giant pink bow, but an irritating ending can make a reader hate an otherwise excellent book. You want an ending that earns a place on the reader's nightstand, not a spot in their fireplace. It doesn't matter how good a drink is if it leaves a bad aftertaste in your mouth. 

I'll use some movies as examples:
Remember the movie SEVEN, with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman? I don't want to ruin it, but let's just say there's a box at the end that holds part of Brad Pitt's wife. (Okay, it was her head). But the ending didn't come out of nowhere, and it sure fit in with the rest of the movie. I bought it, hook line and sinker, and it stuck with me like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth.

Remember the movie CITY OF ANGELS with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan? The angel makes the monumental sacrifice to fall to earth, only to have his true love get hit and killed by a truck the very next day in a really stupid bicycle accident. I saw that movie years ago, and I still want to punch it. I want to literally punch the movie. If it showed up on my doorstep, I would knee it in the groin.

So, my question for you, dear blog readers, is: What do you expect in endings? Do they have to be happy in order for you to like a book? Does everyone have to make it out alive? What sticks with you the most? Do you remember any endings that made you want to throw the book across the room?

Answer in the comments and you'll be entered to win the free book.  


  1. it's difficult to find a perfect ending (yeah, it's like a bra).. ^_^

  2. It doesn't have to be happy, but I'd like something to be resolved. As long as it feels like an ending, I'm fine.

  3. Not everyone needs to survive. In fact, one of my favorite reads of late was Two-Part Invention about the death of L'Engle's husband. Sad but saturated with meaning. The players don't even have to be happy in the ending. But I have to find meaning in the story, the prose, the circumstances. Something to hang onto. Otherwise, I'm bugged - like I wasted my time.

    And from one who absolutely HATES bra shopping, I wish you the right fit sooner than later!

  4. Like in the Hunger Games, so many of the people died in the end, but Katniss was the winner. Even though all the people you became attached too didn't make it, it was a happy/resolved ending. (I can't believe I am saying that the death of people makes for a satisfying ending...I didn't mean it to sound like that)

    Anyways, about bras...I just bought one over the internet without even trying it just looked good on the model. Somehow that is a really stupid way to buy a bra. Not satisfying. Just desperate.

  5. Endings? I want a book that feels like it makes sense to end it the way it does. Happy or Sad, I don't care, it just needs to fit in with the book.

    If a book is the happiest book ever and it ends with 2 puppies being massacred by machetes, then that ending stinks and ruins the book.

    If a book ends with a ridiculous scenario, then that ruins a book. If a book ends in the middle of a conflict or ends when you know it really should not end that way...basically cutting a book in half and making it two books (Hello Catching Fire!), then that stinks.

    I have no comments on bra shopping.

  6. I like things to be resolved in the end and justice to be meted out to the characters.

    Yeah and it's really really difficult finding that perfect bra!

  7. Well, it depends on what kind of book it is and if it's a book or a series.

    PS. I hate shopping bras -.-

  8. Well, I am a sucker for the "happy ending", I have to admit. However, a well done "unhappy" ending can be powerful -- if it doesn't feel contrived. Like when a certain guy got turned into a tree at the end of a certain series... HELLO!! What in the haystack was that all about? Loved the books, but the ending? Erg. ;-)

    Nice Bra analogy by the way. he he he.

  9. I agree that endings don't have to be and should not always be happy.

    Cathartic, yes. Satisfying, yes.

    But if the hero dies/the guy doesn't get the girl it can actually make a story stronger and more realistic.

    For example, in My Best Friend's Wedding you expect Julia Roberts to get her man because she's Julia and always does - but the fact that she doesn't is surprising and actually really refreshing and fulfilling.

    In fact, an unhappy ending can be the most powerful of all if that's the way the lesson is learned, eg Charlotte's Web, Ways to Live Forever - the power of tears.

    (Though hopefully your bra-shopping won't end that way!)

  10. I think that a perfect ending depends on the book. What I hate most in an ending though is for there to be no sort of growth or resolution. Everything doesn't need to be wrapped up nice and neatly, but I do want it to feel as if the story/characters progressed sufficiently.

  11. there must be resolution.
    it does not have to be happy, but i hate a lot of loose threads and unanswered questions.

  12. I never would've thought to compare writing a perfect ending to finding the perfect bra but it's actually very true! It's a great metaphor. :)

    I like happy endings of course but I always want a story to have a set resolution. Any book can be well-written but if I get to the ending and questions haven't been answered and I KNOW there's no sequel, I will be annoyed. :/ Or if there's no type of character growth and whatever message the author is trying to convey just falls flat.

    Oh, and I know what series Sara B. Larson is talking about! That ending made me cry.... why, oh, why did it have to happen that way?!

  13. Endings are really hard, but they can also be very fulfilling. I have to agree with Jacqueline C. that the perfect ending depends on the book. But the most important thing is what you said, Brodi, that is HAS to meet the reader's expectations -- even if it wasn't what the reader originally expected. I love how Carrie Ryan's books are circular, and the beginning always mirrors the end, though it's still unpredictable! I don't want to take up too much space on that, but I blogged about that awhile ago so I'll just provide the link below. But I have to admit that the books that stick with me the longest are where the MC is pushed beyond what I thought they'd be able to endure, and in the end the MC loses something valuable -- whether it be possessions, social status, friends, love-interests, or even the MC's own life -- but gains so much in the way of knowledge and character growth. For me that is what defines an AMAZING story.

  14. Ha! What a fun post! I hate it when the ending isn't finished. Like the author got to the climax and stopped. I always want to yell, "Finish the journey!", then lay awake at night wondering what happened next. Grrr.

  15. I know the book ended well when, after I close the book, I hug it, just to keep it close for a little longer. I hugged HP #3. I hugged all but the last Twilight book.

    I like happy endings. Sad endings can work so long as there is hope seeded in. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz is a good example of this sort of ending. Hope all over the place. Kept me sobbing for three days. Hope is the most terrible of emotions... but the lack of hope is worse.

    I don't like cliche endings--don't put a cutesy phrase as the last line. No "Forever and ever." Don't pretend that your characters are going to be frozen in time in their happy place and will never have another worry.

    The major questions should be answered, the major conflicts should be either resolved or brought to a cease-fire, and the MC should have suffered and have learned something from it.

    I have to say--after reading the first few pages of your book, I already wanted to hug it. You'll do fine.

    Do I get an extra entry since it's my birthday?

  16. Oh my goodness--thank you for this post! I just finished my first complete draft of my WIP and the ending has been playing over and over in my head. Not sure if it works--probably doesn't.

    I read The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli, and in the end, I was disappointed that this girl's life went the way it did...but I still LOVED the book. The main character didn't have the fairy tale ending (and my romantic side was sad), but she had a good ending, a real one.

  17. There must be resolution. Not everything must be wrapped in a neat little bow, but I must feel like the main characters are going to be okay.

  18. I think Shannon Hale has the best endings ever, 'cause they're so unpredictable. You think you know where it's going, and then she pulls out the surprises.
    Also, endings can be deceptive. You think it works, and then you throw it in the wash (let someone read it) and next thing you know, it's riding up or the straps are falling down.

  19. I love bitter-sweet endings & sweet ending. doesn't really matter. If one of the good guys die, it's ok. If all of them die, i hate the book!

  20. Wow! You and your analogies are the best! I want to be just like you someday.

    I don't need a happy ending to be happy with a book. I just want an ending that is true to the story. I don't mind if no one dies and I don't mind if lots of people die. (I get sad when people die, but I realize it's part of the story.) I also want there to be a resolution (not necessarily everything tied up in a bow), but some kind of resolution. I like it when things are left open for possibilities of sequels too.

    I hated, loathed, the ending of The Time Traveler's Wife, and it wasn't because ***spoiler*** Henry died. It was because he told Clare to stop waiting for him and then told her he'd show up once when she was really old. What the heck is she going to do armed with that knowledge? Or course, she's going to wait for him! UGH!

  21. You don't need to put my name in for the book because I own it but I do want to comment about endings.

    Man, the perfect ending is hard. I agree with the above comments. It needs to be satisfying & make sense. I'm not someone who minds characters being overly happy in the end though. Especially if it's a story of suffering. If I love that character & they suffer for pages upon pages I really want them to happy in the end.

    But can I just AMEN the comment about SEVEN & CITY OF ANGELS. Such good examples & SOOOO true.

  22. I'll add my two cents because I don't think anyone's said this yet: PACING. I'm okay with happy or sad, as others have said; and as you said, it should fit the story. But I was so frustrated when I read my first Robin McKinley book (which I'd been loving up until the last ten pages) because the ending felt RUSHED. I didn't have a problem with what happened, just with how fast the narration suddenly zoomed by, like, "And then the spell was broken and her family showed up within a few days and they feasted and yeah all those other minor things got resolved too and they were happy. The end." I haven't read any more of her books because a friend told me her endings are notoriously that way.

  23. Or, on the other extreme, endings that drag on and on aren't good either. Has to be paced just right.

  24. I think City of Angels had one of the worst endings ever. Blah. But I'm also a sappy sort of person and like happy endings after all the agony. However, I'd much, much rather have a sad ending that works than a happy ending that left me bewildered or gagging.

    And, yes, I have been known to throw books. I threw A Separate Peace across the room when I finished it. It was the school's copy too. Ironically, when we did a full novel critique a month or so ago, someone told me that if mine had been an actual book instead of a digital one, they would have thrown it across the room because of my ending.

    Also, my word verification is "trials"---maybe because bra shopping and writing endings are such trials for us. :)

  25. i do love a happy ending. i understand and appreciate when things don't work out perfectly but i like everyone to be happy in the end.

  26. I like a happy ending, but at times I understand if there is not. If the ending is unhappy I feel there needs to be a good reason for it.

  27. Loose ends make me want to throw the book across the room...but you can guarantee I will come back for the sequel. Not everyone has to make it out alive but there has to be a REASON for it - you still have to tie it up even if it isn't happy. I guarantee the happy go lucky endings cause me to loose interest about 15 pages before the book ends and I don't remember those as much as a gut wrencher / cliff hanger. LOVE cliff hangers as much as I LOATHE them!

    You can never go wrong with a few dead bunnies along the way (oh, and some sex and violence :))

  28. Everyone already said what I like about how to end a book, so I'll just tell you the book whose ending I hated the most. So much so that I would actually consider burning it!

    The Giver.


    I want the three hours it took me to read that book of my life back.

  29. First of all, I love this post and the bra analogy! And if City of Angels ever does show up at your door, please email me immediately so that I can come participate in the pummeling. That movie seriously deserves a roundhouse kick to the head. Perhaps I'll bring Chuck Norris along to assist. ;-)

    To answer your question about endings, plausibility and satisfaction are the two key elements for me. So long as the ending feels true to the characters and the major conflicts have been resolved (or deemed unresolvable), then I am happy. I love a happily-ever-after ending as much as the next person, but only if it feels true the rest of the book (or series).

    Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth = super sad ending, but it was true to the characters and consistent with the challenges they'd faced throughout the book. Lily Bart's story was over & I didn't need to hear every detail of the rest of Lawrence Selden's life to understand the impact that the events of the story had upon his life. Plausible and satisfying.

  30. I don't know if you're still accepting entries. Even if you aren't, here's my thoughts.

    Endings don't have to be happy for me. But they do have to be satisfied. Everyone has to be someplace where they can stay for at least a while...forever or at least until the end of the book. The actions of the characters have to make sense given what has been revealed about the characters. If that's done and all the major questions that were brought up we answered, I'm good with even an unhappy ending.

    Example of a good but not happy ending: Angel (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off tv show).
    Spoiler Alert!
    Spoiler Alert!
    (You've been warned)

    One of two major themes in the show was fighting the fight that has to be fought, even when everything is stacked against you and there's a really good chance you're not going to win.
    So, Angel and team end up in this alley, fighting a dragon and all sorts of minions of hell and other bad places. And it's raining. And half the team is either dead or gone. And Angel's words are something to effect of "I want to fight the dragon". Good chance they're not walking out of that alley alive. And, even if they do, they know that it's not the ultimate victory against the ultimate evil. But it's what needs to be done and that's what they do...they fight the fight that needs to be fought and just because that's what they do.

    Now, on the other hand, there's the recent Nicolas Sparks movie "The Last Song" (which I saw willingly but only just and definitely didn't pay for and really would like those two hours of my life back). I'm sure Mr. Sparks writes great books (although I've never read any) but, whew boy can he not write a screen play. Many, many of the characters' actions came out of nowhere. What's her name's obsession with the sea turtles? Cute guy's dead brother and family drama surrounding that? Completely out of the blue. I'm sure (I'd like to hope) there was some lead up to it in the book. Internal monologue or explaination of people's feelings or something that explained where this came from cause it definitely wasn't in the movie. Most of the final scenes and individual character resolutions could have been predicted just about the time each character was introduced (bad girl's abusive boyfriend plays with fire...yep, he started the church fire). If the sea turtles and the little brother hadn't been cute I REALLY would have tried to guilt the youth guy (saw it as part of a very poorly attended youth scavenger hunt that turned into one student's personal youth event) into giving me a massive raise (which, okay, 500% of nothing is still nothing, but maybe I could have gotten lunch or ice cream out of the deal as well).

    So, to sum up. Joss Whedon - excellent endings. Nicolas Sparks the screenplay writer - not so much.

  31. I realize that this is now an old topic, but I'm a little slow lately. I LOVED the ending of Jellicoe Road. Not everything was happy, but there was a great sense of closure. In fact, I frequently like books with a mix of happy and sad. All happy all the time is just not fun to read.

    The book whose ending made me crazy was Graceling by Kristin Cashore. She was leading up to this one thing the whole book and then the characters were just like, "Um... nevermind." It made me want to crack some heads. Mostly the author's head. It was so out of character that it seemed obvious that she had some sort of agenda she was pushing.
    (However, I LOVED her next book, Fire, and I hope for redemption for the first characters with the last book in the series!)

    P.S. A year ago I went on a bra shopping crusade. I literally spent 3 days going to every store that might possibly sell bras to fit my hammerhead shark figure. I finally found one. So I bought 3 of the same kind. A month later, I ended up pregnant and none of them fit anymore!