We’re already more than a month into the new year, although I haven’t stopped feeling celebratory about the ending to the last one. I’ve spent my time at home, as always, chugging along on my various projects, which include revising several manuscripts that I hope to publish this year.
Revising a manuscript that I’ve left to marinate for a while always raises questions for me, some of them structural and fundamental and some more stylistic. One of the elements I most fret over is the ending, which of course I want to be happy and upbeat, but how can I best deliver that? How to avoid cliché? How to tie things up in a way that satisfies readers but leaves them wanting more?
Endings are hard to write (well, books are hard to write), and no matter what you do, you can’t please all the people all the time (see Amazon reviews for just about anything). And it turns out that even award-winning, best-selling authors write books with endings that a lot of people hate. There’s even a list for it, according to Ron Charles, book critic at the Washington Post. (I’m nodding here to Elizabeth, who described yesterday a bunch of lists she’d surveyed, looking for books she might want to read.)
Charles included a link (to the retailer OnBuy.com) so the curious could read the list for themselves, but I couldn’t find the post on OnBuy’s blog or anywhere else on the site, for that matter. However, Charles said that the company had culled reviews on Goodreads to identify the Books With the Most Disappointing Endings. He wrote:
The methodology — searching comments for “ending” and variations of the word “disappointing” — feels a bit dubious, but the list is an irresistible walk down memory lane.
What’s on the list?
- “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
- “Atonement” by Ian McEwan
- “Requiem” by Lauren Oliver
- “The Sweet Far Thing” by Libba Bray
- “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
- “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson
- “Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks
- “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
- “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
- “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer
Charles points out that readers seem to hate the books they love the most, because who bothers to hate the ending of a book they didn’t like? They were probably just happy to get to the end of it, which is how I always feel when I read to the end of something I find meh, hoping for the best, but then, ultimately and forever, disappointed by the last page.
What about you? Did you hate the endings of any of these books? Hate a few others? What tips you over into no-no land?