How Do You Like Your Stories To End?

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After reading, Openly Straight, by Bill Konigsberg, a few weeks ago I saw in many people’s reviews on goodreads lots of different message: “If you don’t like ambiguous endings you won’t like this book.” It got me thinking about all the different kinds of endings there are and what kind of endings I like.

My initial brainstorm gave me three options for types of endings: happy, sad, and ambiguous. After looking through my bookshelf and trying to characterize all the books on my shelves I added ambiguous/happy and ambiguous/sad as categories, because sometimes a book can end ambiguously but leave the reader with a feeling that things are going to be okay or not.

While there are books I like that fit into each of my five categories, and while I did really like Openly Straight, I think of myself as liking happy endings best of all. One of my favorite things about romance novels, chick-lit, and teen romances is the covenant to end stories happily. Something about knowing a happy ending is coming helps me invest in the characters. I don’t mind a cliff hanger in the middle of series, but I like knowing it is all going to work out okay in the end.

Even when books end sadly, I do like knowing what happens. I love love love epilogues, even the one at the end of Harry Potter. It makes me happy having everything wrapped up. What’s funny, and perhaps unfair, is that when it comes to my writing so far I am more in favor of giving my characters more open-ended, ambiguous endings. So maybe I need to think about that.

Do you have a preference when it comes to your endings? If you are a writer, do you give your characters a different kind of ending than the kind you like to read?

7 thoughts on “How Do You Like Your Stories To End?

  1. This post REALLY got me thinking. And I still can’t come up with an answer.

    While I obviously love a happy ending, I think of how I felt when I finished Allegiant (don’t want to spoil, but if you’ve read, you know) and while I was sad I actually loved it. I wanted to high five Veronica Roth for being brave enough to end the series like that.

    So while happy is good and happy — sometimes the sad or ambiguous endings are the ones that stick with you for much longer. I mean, not a book, but I STILL find myself thinking about the ending of Inception at least once a week. Did the top stop spinning or did it keep spinning?! It drives me crazy yet there’s something about that movie ending that makes it way more memorable than those with a happy ending.

    In my own book (and potential series, which I’ve got planned out on paper and in my head but haven’t written yet) I gave the main character a happy ending to her journey — that said, it wasn’t without some sad story lines in getting there. And who knows — when the time comes that I actually sit down and write the last book, maybe I’ll change my mind.

    Awesome post! You got me thinking this morning – about something other than work for once which is always a warm welcome 🙂

    • Thanks Crystal. I agree with what you said about Allegiant. Maybe a book just needs an ending that fits the book. There are some books it would be totally weird to end happily or wrap everything up, I just think that all in all books that do that are my preference. Really fun to read your thoughts on the subject!

  2. Great post!!! I’ve been thinking about this ever since Allegiant came out. I’ve also had discussions with writer friends about this topic. I love a happy ending. I’m a sucker for those. But . . . I also like an ending that’s true to the story. If an ending is sad I want it to count. I’m thinking of A Tale of Two Cities, for example. For some, the ending is quite sad. But it’s so beautiful!!!!

    • I love what you say about being true to the story. I think perhaps I’m drawn to genres in general where happy endings are more of a convention (romances) but yeah it would have been totally bizarre for A Tale of Two Cities to have ended happily. Aside from not making sense, it would have taken so much of the meaning away from the story.

  3. I like the author to finish the story, which means create a satisfying ending. That said, I acknowledge that some authors are not writing stories where the ending is the point, it’s about the journey. Not a fan of the journey-style novel or the ambiguous ending.

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