Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Elusive Endings

Someone at my wac critique group has been subbing and resubbing a short story. It's a good story, and the re-sub shows that she's worked at polishing it up after those who critiqued gave suggestions. As I read through the story the second time she subbed it, I was thoroughly enjoying the plot, character developement and more. But when I reached the end, I felt deflated. The final lines left me with a feeling of "Huh?" or "Is this the end?"

I've given it some thought the past couple days. In part, I have been trying to figure out why the story ending fell flat--at least for this reader. This morning, another critiquer mentioned much the same reaction, which made me feel a little better. It hadn't been my imaginiation or only me. I've read many published stories or novels that have been great reads until the ending. And then, I'm left with that same deflated feeling and questions circling in my mind.

I'm in the same dilemma with a short story I wrote several years ago. The story works well until it comes to the ending. And it's not satisfying to the reader or to me, the writer. I've rewritten the ending more than once, and I've yet to come up with the gold ring of endings. I'd like to enter the story in our state authors contest, and the deadline is June 15th, so I've got to come up with somethng soon.

The question is--Why do good endings so often elude a writer? Why don't endings follow in a natural way? Are we trying to always make it a 'happily ever after' conclusion? Are we afraid to make the ending more realistic, more true to life? Is it fair to leave the reader with a sad ending? Or a horrific happening that wipes out all that went before it? Or not knowing what actually happened?

I wish I had the answer to the above questions. If any of you readers can shed some light here, please do make comments. Meanwhile, I think I'm going to check out Nancy Kress's book Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. I'm going to flip right to the final third of the book and read about endings. Maybe she can help me figure this out.


  1. I'm still trying to get across to my high school students that 'to be continued...' is not a clever or particularly original way to end a story.

    Enjoyed your post :-)

  2. I never thought of the 'to be continued...' ending. Might not be satsifying, but clever. :)