Book Endings - Standalone vs Series

ctg

weaver of the unseen
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I've been doing a little bit of research on how to end successfully a story. So far the methods are in most simplistic forms: to close it or leave it open.

In stand alone book, the end is almost always somewhat closed, with maybe a couple of threads open. But in serialised form, I've seen much more open endings, in some cases with a dramatic cliffhanger.

So I'm come to ask, if you're to write your book (and think about making it in series), should you write standalone ending or leave it open for a debate?

Debate please on what is a satisfactory ending. :)
 
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to paraphrase Robert Jordan (and my memory is fuzzy here): "It wasn't the end, but it was an end...."

in other words, i think even a story with a definite ending (he's dead, she's dead, they marry each other, he elopes with an orc etc etc etc etc) deserves to have a few loose ends that aren't tied up, simply because nothing in real life just stops like that either. it gives a kind of continuity to the world around the characters. (unless you're TheEndIsNigh, in which case, all bets are off).

For Malessar's Curse, there's a cliffhanger of sorts, but even the final definitive planned ending merely has a character turning his/her back on what they know and walking out into the world at large. what happens from there will be entirely down to the reader.

Because (and i'm rambling, but i've just thought of the best way to put it):

...and they lived happily ever after.

The End.

But the next morning, Roger the Undefeated King of Twasxilim woke up and, after he had pulled out his nose hairs and fed the goats, wondered what he was going to do with himself now that he had conquered Ioeriojsdfc.

or something like that.
 
Robert J Sawyer says, "who knows about the future? The answer, according to the Lawgiver in the last Planet of the Apes movie: "Perhaps only the dead." But I digress..."

What he meant was that he likes to write standalone books that the editorial teams turns to open endings. But in the meantime Harry Harrison and Sir Terry Pratchett write standalone one that are perfectly good standing alone but yet they are serialised.

When you go read some of the readers comments on what they want, many say that they prefer to have a standalone books but when you look J.K Rowlings Harry Potter series you notice that you cannot go a read book 7, because it doesn't make sense if you haven't read book 1. So that success-story alone speaks against readers wishes.

So you see, I'm a bit perplexed on what to do, go on with an open ending or close most of the threads and leave some hanging open?
 
I remember reading the Lestat book of Anne Rice, coming to the last page and it telling me to get the next one so I could find out what happened. I was 14 and that was the first time I realised that books were a market no different to McDonalds.

Maybe it was that bad experience, but there's something about books ending by setting up another one that drip with cynicism.
On the other hand, I can think of a few that do so simply because the story the author has to tell is so large. I suppose what I'm saying is be careful. Leave everything unfinished and its almost a kind of blackmail.
'Give us the £16.99 or you'll never hear from this plot again!'
 
Please don't end with a cliffhanger. Please?

:D

Even in a series or trilogy or whathaveyou, for reader satisfaction I think you need to resolve SOME of the plots threads. Otherwise your book will just read like 'This is an extended prologue to Book 2' and I won't buy book 2 because book 1 will have been fed to the dog. And that happens a lot to me. I find it extremely frustrating. I want a satisfying ending dammit!

This doesn't mean you can't have a continuation or you have to wrap up everything.

So if you have the Big Good v Big Bad plot with the Romantic Subplot and the Boy Finds he's a Half-orc Subplot and the Lost Blokey With Father-Figure Mentor Subplot....then wrap up at least one of these in a really satisfying manner.

I want to end the book with a sigh of satisfaction, with a sense that something has been resolved, even if the Big Bad is still on the loose, ready to cause mayhem in book 2. If you give me that ending I will buy book 2 and look forward to reading it.

If there is no resolution, your book is dog food.

IMO :D

So basically - write your ending to satisfy your reader. Make them sigh with happiness / catharsis. Then they'll want to read on.
 
Why the cliffhanger ending is so bad? You see that happening very successfully in many series, where the ending leaves you with the dreadful feeling. Me, I like it, but people tend to hate it, yet, when it comes to roundup of best scenes, the cliffhanger get most of the scores.

Thing is that I can bring many of the threads to a conclusion, but I have foreshadowed something that is going to happen in the future. Now what I've planned is a dramatic twist that some might expect to see but wish not to happen, but I'm starting to think that maybe I shouldn't do it. Maybe I should do a Disney ending instead, where as the twist is so major that it forcefully would put me from writing the sequel. Therefore the book becomes a standalone.
 
Thing is that I can bring many of the threads to a conclusion, but I have foreshadowed something that is going to happen in the future.
There's nothing wrong with that. I've done the same myself ( my series is a series of standalones with an overarcing plot). It's books that have NO resolution, that are just book length prologues, that make me feed the dog

As for cliffhangers...well, it's maybe not SO bad if the next book is already out I suppose. But if you have to wait a year and a half to find out what happened, I'm going to get very impatient lol

Do your twist! As long as say one sub plot is done and you've set up for the next book, that's fine.
 
Thank you Julia, I'll bring it to the planned ending then so that you don't have to torture your doggies with a doorstop.
 
I think you need to end the immediate conflict that the book is about.

Book 2 (or the rest of the series) should be continuations of the story but not the next chapter in the current book. Some movies are guilty of doing that and it really annoys me to watch/read a story not to have some closure at the end.

One of my stories does end on a cliff hanger over the fate of the main character. But there is closure of the specific story told in the book.

I sometimes think of a series like the old style computer games with the big boss at the end of the level, you have accomplished something but there is still more to do.
 
Thank you Julia, I'll bring it to the planned ending then so that you don't have to torture your doggies with a doorstop.
My doggie thanks you :D

And I'm not representative so...pinch of salt

I sometimes think of a series like the old style computer games with the big boss at the end of the level, you have accomplished something but there is still more to do.

Yeah good analogy
 
Personally, I hate stories where the first book ends with an apparent resolution, and the next book begins by whisking it away. (To be fair, this usually happens when someone gets talked into writing an unintended sequel ten years later.) As a reader, I feel that if you resolve something, leave it resolved. Otherwise, I'm equally happy with a cliffhanger, a bunch of loose threads, or simply handing the plot off to the (up to that point) secondary characters.

So actually, I'm pretty easy.

Just at the moment, publishers seem to prefer series books from new authors rather than stand alones, so ending the book in such a way that readers still have questions they expect to have answered is probably the best way to go.
 
Thing is that I can bring many of the threads to a conclusion, but I have foreshadowed something that is going to happen in the future.

That would be fine by me, ctg.

One of my favourite series of the moment, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, ends every book with a closure of 95% of the plot - but there's nearly always one unresolved happening in each book which is slowly building toward the probability of a Big Bad being involved.

Even if the series wasn't so good, I'd still be tempted to buy the next in the series, just to see what's happening in this long arc.
 
ctg, could you put a poll up?

I'm in the same boat as yourself, and have a trilogy planned, book 1 written, and half way into book 2, whilst re-editing the first... I'm caught in two minds, and this thread is great in helping me make my mind up where to end. At the moment I have a real cliffhanger, but I could see how that would hack people off...
 
Polls don't work Boneman. We will never get enough of entries in it and besides that point, I cannot edit the thread in such a way that I could add a poll. But I agree, it's a great thread and I did it not for me but also to put those minds that struggle with in rest.

In your case, don't take the cliffhanger as a bad thing, mine ends pretty much in a dramatic cliffhanger, but with many of threads in such a conclusion that it shouldn't leave no doubt to readers on what's going to happen in the future. Or maybe it will. I don't know.
 
Silly me, forgot you can't edit except for straight afterwards...

Hopefully you'll get more responders, but I will admit that my favourite series have always had some resolution, never an out-and-out cliffhanger. Even Lord of The Rings has a sort-of resolution at each book, even if there was drama held over.
 
It's funny that we talk so much about the beginnings and put so much effort on making them right, when the endings also need a work. But then again, its much, much harder to put them into the critiques because there's awful lot of explaining to do and I bet most of the people simply cannot do it.
 
It's funny that we talk so much about the beginnings and put so much effort on making them right, when the endings also need a work.

A writer I met said to me something like- The beginning of a novel should make someone want to read the whole book, the ending should make them want to read the next one.

Obvious, really, but worth bearing in mind.
 
And also worth bearing in mind: the "middle" of the book (~95% of the text) should encourage the reader to get to that ending.
 

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