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'A Winner is You' endings


Percy

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I just finished a book with an abrupt ending where none of the storylines were resolved.  This wasn’t a situation where the author built to a climax and then stopped, leaving a mystery to the resolution or offering the reader possibilities without being explicit as to the final outcome.  No, the story just petered out.  It felt like the author got suddenly bored or confused or just ran out of ideas in what was, up to that point, an excellent read.   Period.  Story over.   Normally as a reader, I like it when I’m not given everything at the end but this ending was weirdly unsettled.  

 

So, how do others feel about ambiguous endings?  Yea or Nay?  What makes for a good ambiguous ending instead of one that leaves you feeling like the author simply gave up on the story?

 

This was not a GA story, by the way, though I think it was the author's first novel.

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It depends on my mood. If I'm stressed and annoyed with everything around me I want a no fussing around end, problem solved, basta. Otherwise I like an end where I can play with possibilities, of course for that there have to be possibilities.

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Hmm... I'm not sure. Usually I like some kind of resolution at the end even if it leaves the question of what will happen next. Did the story have an actual climax? Or did it just build and deflate into nothing? That's always a sad situation. (I swear I'm not trying to make a double entendre here. Honestly.)

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This is an interesting thread subject :) When should the author bail out? Do all the ends need to be tied? After all, the characters "live on" after the story - unless they're killed off by a callous and cruel writer :evil::P - allowing the author to write sequels / flog a dead horse or, as addy and Mann have already said, the reader to "play with possibilities". There are no rules just the writer's skill in judging when it's done, knowing when the reader will be satisfied as they close the book or switch off the Kindle.  Perhaps the most famous loose end ever written is from amateur writer Margaret Mitchell's only novel Gone With The Wind

... she raised her chin. She could get Rhett back. She knew she could. There had never been a man she couldn’t get, once she set her mind upon him.

“I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day!”

 

Edited by Zombie
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Double entendre notwithstanding, Mann got it right.  The story built nicely for most of the book, spurred off into a polemic 3/4 of the way through, made a half-hearted attempt to get back on track but just, hmmm, deflated.

 

i suspect the story was largely autobiographical and sine the author doesn't know how the issues she (as the character) was confronting will ultimately resolve themselves, she couldn't bring about a proper ending.  Or, once she spouted off to the universe in her two chapter rant, she was spent and had no juice left to continue.  Maybe that rant WAS the climax...for the author.  Damn it, she got her satisfaction and I was left hanging.

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I don't mind ambiguous endings. I've tried it as an author. I've read it as a reader. It done well, it can add a punch to the story. 

 

What I hate is rushed endings. A story has a pace. If the writer spends seven-eight chapters about the problem, repeating it throughout the 20-30 chapters and ending it in one chapter? The reader doesn't even get the time to know what's happening and BOOM, the end. And we are left like "WTF?" And then, of course, we have a nice author's note telling us that yes, this story is done and that the author is working on publishing his next book... Ok, so what I read, "Go, there, I've ended it. happy now? Now, let me look at my published book which is much better than this free one (I'm getting nothing out of it). And yes, do buy my book."

 

Looking back, it was a great story but all that was left was this bittersweet taste about the whole thing. 

 

Sorry, if it came off like a rant. I wanted to say that the ending is as important as the introduction, if not more important. It will decide if the reader will read your next or not. 

 

(And no, it wasn't a GA story. :) )

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I'm guessing, Percy, you'd be pretty pissed of if you read The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe which is a kind of "road" novel about a salesman with personal problems that escalate during the narrative and seems to be building to some kind of personal crisis climax when, after 300 odd pages, the MC meets an author figure who informs the MC that he's not real and is in fact just a character in a book the author has made up and it's finished and the MC protests ‘It can’t have finished… I still don’t know how it ends’ and the author replies it’s easy: ‘I can tell you just how it ends,’ and clicks his fingers ‘Like this.’ ‘Like this’ are the two last words of the novel :lmao:
 

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Yeah, stories that end prematurely and then suggest you buy the book are a bit like too-small bits of free porn.  :P  For me, the satisfying length of a denoument depends on the genre: Whodunits, close to nothing. Thrillers (Cassini Mission, Luxorian Fugitive) build high pressure and then naturally deflate quickly; don't want to hang around too long. Complex, emotion-laden stories with several subplots need more time. Finally, if the denoument seems short in comparison to the body, perhaps the body is too long? Seven-to-eight chapters building, then twenty-to-thirty chapters maintaining (repeating? ugh) may be too much bulk. For me, anyway. I like motion and change.

 

Regarding the degree of resolution, I agree with several earlier posts. 

I don't mind ambiguous endings. I've tried it as an author. I've read it as a reader. It done well, it can add a punch to the story. 

 

What I hate is rushed endings. A story has a pace. If the writer spends seven-eight chapters about the problem, repeating it throughout the 20-30 chapters and ending it in one chapter? The reader doesn't even get the time to know what's happening and BOOM, the end. And we are left like "WTF?" And then, of course, we have a nice author's note telling us that yes, this story is done and that the author is working on publishing his next book... Ok, so what I read, "Go, there, I've ended it. happy now? Now, let me look at my published book which is much better than this free one (I'm getting nothing out of it). And yes, do buy my book."

 

. . .

 
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I agree that the ambiguous ending can be the right one for a story.  I guess it is a tool that some authors use more skillfully than others.  Thanks for all the interesting comments here.  

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I loved Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley, right up until the end, where it was suddenly unclear who was alive/dead and if another character was happy/hallucinating and it was in fact all very unresolved.

i like ending which end, or at least, give a definite sense of what the characters lives will be like in the future.

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