There are a million ways a book can end.
But for the sake of sanity and short blog posts, I’m narrowing it down to three.
1) The happy ending: The protagonist reaches their goal, the guy gets the girl, the world is allowed to continue spinning, and everyone lives happily ever after.
I know this is the most unrealistic type of ending, but I can’t help it. I like happy endings.
Granted…A saccharine sweet ending with everything tied up with a pretty pink bow can be a little much. We all know life isn’t perfect, and we don’t really identify with perfect, so perfect endings can be annoying. But…I’m one of those people that read to escape, so if I’m boohooing and depressed at the end of the book, I am not a happy camper. I have been known to heave books at the wall when things go in that direction, better known as…
2) The Unhappy Ending: The protagonist may reach their goal, but they lose something in the process. The guy doesn’t get the girl, someone you’ve spent an entire 800 pages falling in love with dies, and happily ever after is a fairy tale dangled tauntingly in the face of reality.
I don’t mind unhappy endings as long as they aren’t CATASTROPHIC to everything I’ve just read. I can handle the guy not getting the girl. Just don’t kill him off after he finds out she doesn’t love him, after I’ve spent countless hours reading his story.
Even Job had a happy ending people… 🙂
3) The Cliffhanger: I LOVE cliffhangers. Not in stand-alone novels, but in a series, they are as addicting as chocolate…to me. The protagonist usually meets their goal to a degree. Typically, things have gone from bad to worse and they have found themselves with a whole new set of problems heaped on top of the original issue at hand. The guy sort of gets the girl but you know the road ahead is going to be a tough one. Someone’s life may hang in the balance, and Happily Ever After is still a possibility but things look a little grim.
I love cliffhangers because I thrive on suspense. There is nothing better than waiting to see how it turns out.
But then again, I grew up in an age of To Be Continued episodes of television shows that forced me to wait an entire week for the conclusion. (For more on the effect of cinema on the literary world, click here).That is seldom done anymore…most shows have a beginning, middle, and end to each episode. A problem presents itself and is solved in 30 or 60 minutes.
When I think of cliffhangers in television, I think of the last show of the season. They want you to come back in a few months and keep watching. Books in a series are the same. The story is too long to pack into one book, so it’s broken up, each ending with a hook that will get you to come back.
Some people say they feel tricked by cliffhanger endings, but as long as there is more to come, I don’t mind it at all.
So…out of these three types of endings, I prefer The Cliffhanger. But then again, I prefer reading series as well. If I find characters that I love, I want to follow their story as long as possible.
What about you? What’s your favorite type of ending?