Bad endings

I fear this may turn into a bit of a rant.

I’d rather not rant, especially not when the rant is directed at people who have worked hard and managed to do something that I have so far been unable to do: that is, write (and get published) an entire book.

But the thing is, I have encountered yet another ‘bad ending’.

And, once again, I feel cheated.

I’m not going to name names – this is a generalised rant, as opposed to a specific book review.

I should probably start by explaining what I mean by a ‘bad ending’. My definition of a bad ending is any ending that makes you throw the book down on the floor in rage and disappointment once you’ve finished the final page. It doesn’t help matters that a bad ending has usually been preceded by a heavy-going story that you’ve had to force yourself to keep reading, in the vain hope that it ‘would be worth it in the end’. The realisation that it *hasn’t* been worth it at all is then particularly galling.

The book that ‘inspired’ this rant was one such book. It was an interesting-sounding premise (a sort of ‘what if’ / alternate reality type scenario) and I’d found it via an article on the Guardian (never again will I trust that paper when it comes to books…). However, whilst it was ‘accomplished’ enough in terms of the writing style (according to the blurb, the author had taken an MA in creative writing and it showed), the characterisation, dialogue and the plot itself just never really took off for me. I didn’t much care. I didn’t really believe in the characters: they didn’t come alive for me. But, like the fool that I am, I soldiered on in the hope of a worthwhile climax.

And then what happened? In the final scene, in a wholly engineered and ridiculous plot twist, one of the pivotal characters is murdered, the book ends abruptly and that was the end of that.

It wasn’t just the fact that it was unsatisfying that made me angry, it was the fact that it just came across as lazy. As though the author couldn’t think of a decent way to end the story so just thought ‘oh, I know, I’ll kill off one of the main characters in a really pointless and gratuitous way – that’ll do it’. And I think the fact that I’ve come across this approach in other books just made it worse – again, not naming names but it’s the one ‘with all the breasts’…

I’m not saying that every story has to have a ‘happy ending’ or that characters can’t die at the end of books. However, I do think that if it is going to happen, it’s better if it isn’t just tacked on but actually makes sense within the wider plot. I also think that it shouldn’t just finish abruptly at the point of death with no explanation or follow up because that means there is no ‘closure’ (apologies for using that word – I wouldn’t usually, honest) for the reader. Because, if you’re me, you’re then just left there feeling shocked and upset, thinking ‘why the hell have I just wasted my time reading that, then??’.

I read stories to be entertained, moved, amused or challenged in some way. I don’t read them to be fobbed off with pointlessly unpleasant endings.

Thus endeth the rant.

4 thoughts on “Bad endings

  1. I looked it up on Amazon. All the reviews and info surrounding it make it sound great but eh, I guess this is a lesson that just because you take all these courses and can technically be a great writer doesn’t make you a great story teller.

  2. I guess everyone likes different things… I wouldn’t want to say that it was a ‘bad’ book in its entirety, because that is of course a completely subjective judgement. I just know that some books just carry me along, to the extent that I can’t stop reading (to the detriment of my home life!) and make me fall in love with their characters, so that I’m genuinely gutted when the story ends because we have to ‘say goodbye’. This book did neither, hence my anger at the (in my opinion) ‘lazy and unnecessarily horrible’ ending.

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