Thursday, June 9, 2016

Justifying The Ending

Most of my novels have some very dark parts.  That’s a critique I hear over and over again as people read them, whether it be SalvationDay or Akeldama or Wrongful Death.  Some have asked me why I feel the need to go down such a dark path at the beginning, and why that path continues through the meat of the book.

The reason is very simple – the ending.

To me, you can make a mediocre story good with a good ending, and you can make a good story great with a great ending.  However, in order for an ending to be great, the story has to justify it.  I think a novel that draws you in and makes you care about what happens makes the payoff that much better.  Who cares about a triumphant ending for a book that made you say “meh”?  In my world, you should care so much about the plot and the characters that a triumphant ending makes you want to stand upand cheer.

However, you can’t get there by plodding along in a universe where nothing happens to make you care.  And, unfortunately, it’s tragedy that often creates that empathy.  We want to read about somebody who managed to overcome incredible odds, so the greater the odds, the greater the victory.  You don’t get there by making everything hunky dory from the get go.

Sure, you can create moments of levity and whimsy in your story, but you’re building towards something(hopefully).  You have to make it messy, and possibly tragic, if you want to make the happiness at the end mean something.

The flip side is that your readers are now expecting you to lift them out of the fog of moroseness that you’ve plunged them into.  I’ve talked before about my appreciation of happy endings, because I want to see triumph at the end of a book.  Therefore, while pulling people into a bog is a way to get to the mountaintop, make sure you get there.  Let the reader enjoy how well things turn out at the end – just make sure the journey is arduous enough for them to appreciate getting there.

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