Here’s a post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Endings
The one thing that will sell your next book is the ending of the current book. If your book ends well, leaving the reader satisfied, then they’ll want to repeat the experience with your next book. If your ending falls flat, then some readers won’t care about your next book. If your ending is truly awful, the readers will avoid your next book completely. What made me think of this was a movie that Dean and I watched on Amazon Prime. The movie is called Parallel. We knew nothing about it before we watched it, except for the bit of advertising copy. The movie’s about multiverses, which we both love, and it looked promising. When we watch something together, we have a rule: either one can veto the movie at any point in the movie. We figured this one would be an early veto. Instead, it was a good way to spend an hour-plus. The script was tight, the characters—though unlikeable—were well drawn. There were some quibbles (no way could those bodies have been disposed of easily), but they were minor.
The movie hummed along. It even had the perfect ending. I was enjoying it…and then some idiot tacked on a scene with a minute and a half left. That scene ruined the movie. I have since looked at reviews, and everyone calls the ending a jumbled mess. Yeah. It is. But had the movie ended a minute and a half earlier, it would have been just fine.
Here’s what the ending did wrong:
- It introduced new information that contradicted the information in the movie.
- It threw in a plot twist that literally made no sense.
- It was pointless and emotionally flat.
- It did not match the tone of the rest of the movie.
- It raised questions that could not be answered.
My basic conclusion about this series:
Still, I read Extracted and liked it well enough to go on with the second book, which was GREAT and then the third, which was a tiny bit closer to meh than GREAT. A fourth book would improve the series ending because poof, it wouldn’t be the ending anymore. In the meantime, I actually highly recommend the first two as a duology …
So you see why I thought of this trilogy in connection the the above post! This is an example where the author does not land the ending (of the third book; the first two are fine and in fact lots of fun, particularly the second book). Where does the author fail? Considering the above list, I would say that the ending of Executed works just fine as an ending, while the ending of Extinct fails at points #1, #2, and #5.
Kristine finishes up her post this way:
How do you bring the reader to the next book? You do it by making them love your ending. It had the perfect ending, reader you will tell your friends.
The perfect ending fits the genre and subgenre, but it also surprises. Or, if it doesn’t surprise (no one is surprised by the happily ever after in a romance) on a plot level, it surprises on an emotion level. (I didn’t expect the romance to make me cry with happiness. Or I didn’t expect all that tension in the middle. Or I had no idea how they would resolve all those problems they had as a couple in a satisfying manner, and yet they did!)
A reader can forgive a mediocre or even trite ending, as long as it fits with the book. But a reader will not forgive a bad ending—one that changes the nature of the characters or that contradicts everything that came before or kills off everyone we loved with no warning whatsoever.
Well said, and quite true! Do NOT contradict everything that came before (And then she woke up) and by all that’s holy, do not kill any of the characters when we’ve been cheering their survival. Remember the start of Aliens III, when the movie opens and we find out that oops! Newt and Bishop both died after all! Remember that? Yeah, me neither, I’ve totally blocked everything about that movie from my mind. I would never touch anything else in that universe. They would have to pay me to go to another Aliens movie after that! And this is very much because the beginning of that movie utterly destroys the excellent ending of the previous movie.
You’ve all seen Aliens, right? Because whoa, what a fantastic movie that is. The first movie in the series is a great horror/SF film, but I don’t care for horror, so not really my thing. The second, an SF thriller, is the one you have to see. And, as mentioned here, that’s the place to stop. You’ll love the ending as long as you don’t go on to the third movie.
Okay, this is all making me think I ought to try to list off some books and/or movies with particularly great endings. Perhaps I’ll take a stab at that in an upcoming post.
In the meantime, if you’ve read something recently where the author landed the perfect ending, by all means drop it in the comments!