And They Lived Happily Ever After?

TheEnd

You’ve written thousands of words and proofread those words more times than you can count. You’ve invested yourself in these characters for months and months.

Now, it’s time to let them go.

However, before you can, you have to make sure their story ends well. If not, then what was the point? In the end, you want your characters to end up the way that they were supposed to end up. You should satisfy the reader to a degree while leaving enough loose ends to keep options open. So, how do you end your series correctly? (Note: I did not say ‘how do you end your series so that everyone is happy)

I’m on my final (third) book of The Reformation Trilogy. I’ve written Devastation, Innovation, and am now almost done with the first draft of Reformation. I’ve grown to love these characters dearly, and they all seem dear in my heart. I think of them when I listen to music, when I’m in bed, and when I’m drawing their faces on a piece of paper. Since I’ve grown to love all of these characters so much, and I feel they all deserve a proper ending. Some have a better ending than others, but all deserve an ending nevertheless. I’m going to use Mockingjay from The Hunger Games as a bad example. Now, I love this series. Overall, it was wonderful to read. It was addictive and fascinating. However, Suzanne Collins did not end the series correctly. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

At the end of Mockingjay, I closed the book (or, for that matter, exited out from my kindle fire), and felt very sad. Now, when I read a series and finish it, there often is a looming feeling. But in hindsight, this series did not just leave me sad. From the beginning I had wanted Katniss with Peeta. Collins, however, completely ruined Katniss in the last chapters of the book for me. She became literally burned after the death of her sister, Prim. I remember this very well, in fact. Katniss went into a state of insanity and depression. The ending was rushed, and Katniss crumbled. All heroes need a point of “rock bottom” but this bottom came at the very end of the series, and there was no real redemption for her character. Katniss was not a hero anymore, for me. She ran away to her little hole, burned and bruised, and finally became somewhat alive with Peeta. Gale was gone, doing real things in the world, and Katniss was forever scarred. Throughout the series, Katniss was always unpredictable. Suzanne Collins crafted Katniss this way, but I don’t like seeing the protagonist in such a terrible state after the climax of the series. Sure, there must be recovery time. But wouldn’t Prim have picked herself up and done something to better the world? Katniss disappeared, and the last words of the series are not that comforting except that she is with Peeta (which, to some people, causes chagrin). Please forgive me if I’m missing details; it has been a long time since I’ve read the series. Sure, Katniss supposedly is still happy, but we all know this isn’t the way we wanted it to end.

Keep in mind, books don’t always end the way we want it to end, but I want to feel that the author did the characters justice. I’m not sure if Suzanne Collins did that for Katniss. She crumbled, and I don’t feel that she ever truly recovered.

The point is, you must end your series correctly. No, I don’t mean that everyone has to live happily ever after. However, everyone must have an ending, and it must be an ending that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be fair, but it must be the way you planned it. You’re the author, and you call the shots. However, your readers are important too.

For The Reformation Trilogy, I want there to be an overall ‘positive feel’ to the ending of the series because, throughout the novels, there is a fair dose of pain and suffering. I want there to be a break from that. I want the readers to come up for air. On the other hand, the ending will not be entirely happy. You see, different characters have different destinies. Some will end up the way the readers feel they needed to, but there will be some who end up in a less-than-desirable situation. It doesn’t mean I haven’t ended my series correctly, it merely means that different characters have different endings. Some die and some live. I want to make the ending so that you close the book and sigh in relief while a few tears trickle down your cheek. I want you to walk away and reflect on those characters, how their deeds resulted in their happiness or demise, and most of all, I want you to feel that I did the characters justice.

For me at least, Suzanne Collins didn’t do Katniss justice. She wasn’t the strong hero we had envisioned her to be. Sure, characters have cracks. That’s not the point. Collins ended the book in a depressing, rushed manner. I was left unsatisfied.

One thing I do want to say is that Collins did tie up most of the loose ends. I mean, we all learned what happened to Katniss and Peeta. Still, the ending left a bad taste in my mouth (not literally, but you know what I mean). We knew what happened to Gale as well.

I think an ending should follow some regulations. Here is my opinion on how endings should be:

  • Unless planning on doing another series linked to the one you’ve written, loose ends should be tied. Readers should know what happened to most characters. Otherwise, readers are left longing to know what happened to his/her favorite sidekick. (But if you meant some matters to be a mystery, then that’s fine. Just don’t forget the ‘smaller’ characters while tying up your protagonist’s ending)
  • Endings should embody what the series is about. Overall, this ending is what the characters have been working for (Or, it’s the exact opposite, depending on if your protagonist failed or succeeded). It needs to answer the big question of the story.
  • Most of all, endings should leave a reader feeling like they didn’t waste his/her time investing in your series. He/She should feel like they could recommend the series to a friend. The ending will stick to the readers’ minds, and if it’s bad, then they might rule the series as bad too. Imagine the ending like the last bite of cake. If that last bite was bitter, then you’re left with that taste in your mouth instead of the wonderful taste of the rest of the cake.

Endings leave a lasting impression. Be sure to make yours good.

Do you have rules for endings? How do you think a series should conclude?

While composing your dramatic ending, be sure to keep an eye out for any clues regarding The Quest for Publishment.

Until next time,

S.G.B.

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4 thoughts on “And They Lived Happily Ever After?

  1. Interesting thoughts. With regards to Katniss, I too was disappointed by the ending of Mockingjay. Upon reflection though, I think Collins did exactly what she intended with her.

    SPOILERS:

    If you think about it, throughout the trilogy, Katniss was in a barely controlled freefall the entire time, with very little control over anything that happens to her. The capital forces her to giver her life up to save Prim, Haymitch and Peeta conspire behind her back in the first games AND the second, the capital plays games with her life again with the Quarter Quell and Snowe’s threats on her family. The president of district 13 and the other leaders there use her as they see fit to win the war, and ultimately manipulate things by killing her sister.

    She has no control over any of this. When she finally does grasp at a bit of control at the end of Mockingjay, I think the futility of it all comes crashing down on her in an appropriate manner. I think the argument you made concerning Prim is a pertinent one. Prim would not have collapsed the same way, but Katniss is not Prim.

    It’s certainly not a feel good ending, but I think it’s an appropriate one for the characters. Two broken heroes go off to pasture together. I think it could have been written a bit better, but I understand the purpose of it.

  2. I’d like to add to the commenter above me that although I have not read Mockingjay (I’m not sure I plan to), I am in a family of Hunger Games fanatics. My father in particular was actually awe-stricken by the end of the series, for precisely the reasons expressed above. He was extremely impressed by the way the ending was handled, and ranks it as one of the best endings to a series he has come across. He tells me that he thought the characters and the politics were handled beautifully, and in the only way that could have made sense to him. His opinion was interesting to me, so I felt I’d share!

    For the most part, I have not met many people who liked the final Hunger Games book, and the most universal complaint I’ve heard is that the characters became unrelatable and unlikeable. (I’m not saying your characters have to be likeable to be relatable, but they should be either relatable or likeable, and these were neither.) I think that this is a big problem with many series endings– the plot becomes too important, the action becomes too overwhelming, and too much information is revealed at once, which overshadows the characters and makes the story convoluted feeling and (as you said) rushed, and therefore rather boring as well.

    I can think of many books that fall into this trap (for example, I rank Ms. Collin’s other series as ending this way, part of why I don’t want to read Mockingjay), and it really is too bad.

    Thank you for your post! You point out many good things to think about. I hate writing endings.

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