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Old 02-28-2008, 12:18 PM   #1
AllardChardon
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Weak endings

I hate weak endings. I just finished Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune, a historical novel about the 1850s gold rush in California. After 447 pages of words, she could not find the few she needed to end the novel with a satisfactory conclusion. No, she just leaves you hanging. I suppose the writers who do this figure you can end it the way you want. I think it is just plain lazy writing. Anyone else perturbed by weak endings?
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:24 PM   #2
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Sometimes it's more difficult to leave the possibility of a sequel than it is to wrtie a definitive conclusion to a story.

I don't like poor endings, but I don't need every last detail wrapped up in a neat package either. I do seriously think that far too many authors are thinking of the next story when they write the ending of the current story -- publisher's want the security blanket of proven characters and settings so they push for sequels over new stories and authors like sequels because they don't have to write a good beginning for a sequel and can skimp on both the beginning and ending.
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:48 PM   #3
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Sequels or not, every single book needs a good beginning and a good ending to justify the reader's time and effort. I have just finished my first novel and it has a good, not great, beginning, a good ending and is a trilogy at the very least. The Undertaker Meets The French Madam is the working title and I pondered a good ending for several months before writing the conclusion. A writer must leave their reader with a great sense of satisfaction for going there with you.
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:11 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllardChardon View Post
Sequels or not, every single book needs a good beginning and a good ending to justify the reader's time and effort. ... A writer must leave their reader with a great sense of satisfaction for going there with you.
Unfortunately, good writing isn't always what the publishers want and are willing to pay for.

A story that was conceived and written as a complete, stand-alone story is much more difficult to get published because it follows the principles of good writing you advocate -- and which I agree wholeheartedly with.

Americans -- and to some extent the rest of the "first world" -- have been conditioned to "Tune in next week! Same Bat-Time! Same Bat-Channel!" and don't appreciate the literary value of "closure." And Publishers won't pay for "closure" (or won't pay as well.)
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Old 02-28-2008, 07:01 PM   #5
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So your saying that weak endings are fashionable and better paid than good strong endings? From the latest books I have read, contemporary ones at least, this could be the case. Everyone is not lazy, just playing to the market. Boy, I am sick of what is marketable or not!
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:33 AM   #6
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So your saying that weak endings are fashionable and better paid than good strong endings? From the latest books I have read, contemporary ones at least, this could be the case. Everyone is not lazy, just playing to the market. Boy, I am sick of what is marketable or not!
That's pretty much the case -- but it's more a case of good writing that isn't fashionable, but salable writing is.

I see a lot more flaws in modern publishing than just the lack of definitive endings.

It's also more than just the publishing industry -- "Hollywood" seems incapble of buying any "good" movies and concentrates on clones, remakes, and endless sequels until every halfway profitable concpet has been thoroughly run into the ground -- and most of the movies that get made have weak endings to leave room for a sequel, too.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:54 AM   #7
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Well just because an author is leaving room for a sequel doesn't mean the book can't still have a satisfactory ending. Something had to have been accomplished in those pages.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:55 AM   #8
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Well just because an author is leaving room for a sequel doesn't mean the book can't still have a satisfactory ending. Something had to have been accomplished in those pages.
You're absolutely correct. There is no real conflict between "good writing" and "salable writing" -- EXCEPT...

The things I see that lead me to the conclusion that it is the publishers more than the authors is that the worse the endings are, the more they look like "kluges" added to a story to fit the dictates of "market research." IOW, the endings often almost seem like they were pulled from a selection of "boilerplate" endings with the characters' names added with find & replace. Sometimes it even looks like a random selection of the "boilerplate" to use.

There are good authors who write what are intended from the beginning as trilogies and/or series. Authors who both know how to construct an ending that both satisfies the readers and leaves room for a sequel -- in many cases demands a sequel. Authors who have the financial clout to tell their publisher "no changes or I'll go elsewhere to publish" and have the will to buck the trend of "clones, remakes and sequels" that drives entertainments industries.
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Old 02-29-2008, 08:09 AM   #9
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If you pay attention some of hollywood is doing similar in no ending. The movie or series just stops, like No Country for Old Men. There is no conclusion, the filming just stops. Creates a sort of backlash from the viewing public who want closure, they want somebody to die somebody to win and the good guys riding off into the sunset with the girl.

The trick isn't a good ending, which the publishing companies don't really want as has been said. The trick is to not have an ending, creates thought, gets people fixated and generally will get them waiting for a sequel. Remember when The Sopranos ended? People were conjecturing there will be another season because it just can't end like that, people were calling for another season to get their closure. That is exactly what an author and the publishing company want, they want the cries for more, they want people to become fixated on ending the story.

The best example I can think of an author doing that same thing would be H.P. Lovecraft, most of his stories didn't really have an end, they just stopped. Sometimes the main person would die, but mostly they escape the city or creature and your left wondering now what.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:04 AM   #10
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The lack of a third act is the primary reason it's so difficult to find stories I 'd like to draw in here - I pretty much skip straight to the end anymore just to see if there's any kind of clever wind up.

Erotica/porn seems to work fine as a two act play, where the emphasis is on exiting a physiological response, and the emotional response being generated is largely relief/post coital depression.

It doesn't work as well in sequential art form, which requires a higher level of reader involvement to pull off and readers expect more of a punch, i.e., something to tickle the mind as well as the nether regions.
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Old 02-29-2008, 12:06 PM   #11
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Well, that certainly helps me to understand why these authors just leave you hanging. I don't like it. I like closure.

Am I one of those people who demand closure? No. I quit reading that author instead. There are too many really great books with good endings out there to muck around with contemporary crap.

A good example of contemporary crap is The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse. Good enough title to get you interested but does not deliver what you might have thought. The "theory" is totally glossed over and a very minor part of the story. And it had a very weak ending, of course. I felt like I wasted my time. Thank God I didn't pay for it, a friend gave it to me.

I feel the same way about most movies made these days. I have been watching 1930s movies lately. Marie Antoinette with Norman Shearer beat the hell out of Sophia Coppola's mess. And San Francisco with Clarke Gable and Spencer Tracy was a little melodramatic but very entertaining. The earthquake scenes were very well done considering it was 1931.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:41 PM   #12
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The lack of a definitive ending is also the modern aesthetic. You're supposed to feel that way. Unsettled, unsatisfied. Postmodern.

I haven't read the books in question, but could it be that they're reflecting the truth that there's no justice, no balance, no God, no ultimate reality, no conclusive ending to anything anymore? That's the post-modern view of life. That's what post-modernism is all about. Hell, I remember back in 1969 or whatever, people were complaining about Antonioni's Blow-Up, that the murder mystery ended with mimes playing invisible tennis in the park. What was that about? It was about how you can't know anything anymore. If you want strong endings, read pre-60's stuff. You're not going to get it from the Cohn Brothers, who've been heading more and more for ambiguity and disenchantment for years now, since Blood Simple.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:09 PM   #13
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Dr.

True Enough. And love the Cohn Brothers for it. They do it better than anyone.

I suppose it is easier to take in movies. I only have a two hour investment. In a book, especially a long one like Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune, it is unsatisfying. What's wrong with being satisfied with life, in the personal, rather than the universal? I may be single, divorced, so to speak, but am still happy on my piece of land in way northern california.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:48 PM   #14
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In thinking it over quite a bit lo these many months, My conclusion has been that the most natural closure of any given sex act, at least in literary terms, is the next subsequent sex act.

i.e., you can turn a two act sex drama into a three act play by making the third act the first act of a new encounter, i.e., serial, or cyclical plotting, whether you complete the new first act, or supply a new second act or not.

Frankly, I'm just guessing that most readers aren't as interested in a denoument that entails the man turning over and falling asleep while the woman sleeps in the wet spot, practically anything you do is going to be anticlimactic, which goes back to the orgasm as resolution, anything after that denoument, with respect to five act structure, orgasm being a hard act to follow except with another orgasm.

Since many of these are fables, I think the demand for closure can be satisfied by a simple "and they lived happily ever after".

Not an uncommon device actually, I can't remember how many Penthouse Forum stories I've read ended with: "I can't wait to do it again".
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:43 PM   #15
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xssve,

I agree with you. Life is keeping oneself entertained until the next opportunity to have sex.

I ended my first humorous historical erotica novel with my main characters riding off into the sunrise on horses with the next adventure just around the corner. Still it ends nicely. And leaves you wanting more...
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Old 02-29-2008, 05:53 PM   #16
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Personally, I think Saturday is the end of the week, though others may beg to differ depending on their religion.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:47 PM   #17
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Personally, I think Saturday is the end of the week, though others may beg to differ depending on their religion.
That about sums it up - a freind asked me what I thought the meaning of life was, and it just popped into my head that it seems mostly to eat and fuck - you've gotta keep your strength up.
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Old 02-29-2008, 10:35 PM   #18
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I find a definite ending arrives when you run out of characters
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Old 03-01-2008, 12:45 AM   #19
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I hate weak endings. I just finished Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune ... she could not find the few [words] she needed to end the novel with a satisfactory conclusion.
Did youperchance read that in the original spanish or are you complaining about the english translation by Margaret Savers Peden?

I just check it out today and haven't finished the first chapter, but I'm already guessing that the whole book is losing a lot in translation.
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Old 03-01-2008, 10:26 AM   #20
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Quote:
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Dr.

True Enough. And love the Cohn Brothers for it. They do it better than anyone.

I suppose it is easier to take in movies. I only have a two hour investment. In a book, especially a long one like Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune, it is unsatisfying. What's wrong with being satisfied with life, in the personal, rather than the universal? I may be single, divorced, so to speak, but am still happy on my piece of land in way northern california.
Well, as I say, I'm really handicapped in not having read the book and not knowing what sort of unsatisfying ending you're dealing with here, but as a writer, I can recall a few times where I've had terrific ideas for stories that just would not yield an ending. I could stop the story, but I couldn't resolve the conflict in a satisfying or meaningful way.

A parallel comes to mind: Poe's Pit and the Pendulum, which is not really a story so much as it's a fascinating situation. I doubt anyone remembers how it ends.

In my case it seems to happen when the conflict is in the form of a revelation and all the action is internal. Of course in fiction you want to externalize as much as possible, but sometimes you can't and you're left with your protagonist sitting there deeply changed but unable to express it.

I don't know. It's really hard to say without seeing it.
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Old 03-01-2008, 11:42 AM   #21
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The book does not really matter. The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse does the same thing, leave you hanging.

In this case, the author, Jason Selwood, an appropriate name, I wonder if it is a nom de plume, sells his main characters further adventures on a website devoted to her. Her name is Isabel. So the weak ending gives rise to a fan-driven website where the fans can start writing chapters and later Selwood will have to sue, just like J.K. Rowling.

I think I will stick to resolution because it floats my boat. It is easy with my book, because the plot ends the book, just long enough for the next one. Now when I get to the end of Book Three, I may encounter a little more trouble in ending the triology. We shall see.

Thanks for the input from all. I have learned alot about today's market, not that I am impressed. I am rather disappointed, actually.

I was reading about Herman Melville the other day for research. That guy pumped out a book a year for years. As soon as one came out it was published and he was probably halfway done with the next one. No sequels. Astonishing in my view.

It has taken me three years to finish and polish my first novel. I hope my second one goes a little quicker.
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Old 03-01-2008, 03:50 PM   #22
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Harold,

I read the english translation. My spanish is a little rusty. I am sure alot is lost in translation, but will not change the weak ending. As I said before, after 447 pages, I expected a little more resolution, especially concerning Joaquin.

Daughter of Fortune was a New York Times best seller and on Oprah's book club list, so I guess a lot of people like those kinds of endings. Not me.

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Old 03-01-2008, 06:21 PM   #23
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Quote:
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Daughter of Fortune was a New York Times best seller and on Oprah's book club list, so I guess a lot of people like those kinds of endings. Not me.

Allard
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Old 03-02-2008, 08:33 AM   #24
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I also read it when it was announced, I think a couple of years ago, on her book club list. I think it's the one that has the older lady who had the affair with the opera singer, too, right? Wasn't she also a writer of erotica on the sly? I hopw I'm not getting diferent books confused here. My hubby used to get each book for me as it was announced on the list.

I think my favorite was "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" by James Patterson. I hadn't read anything of his before that, and was completely thrown for a loop there. The other of my favorites was the "House of Sand and Fog" and I think it was Dumas if I'm not mistaken. It was just screwed up enough to hold my attention.
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Old 03-02-2008, 11:53 AM   #25
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Kimbalee,

Yes that is the one. I liked the book overall but was disappointed by the end. Did it have a sequel? Is that why she ended it like that? I haven't researched that because if she ended the sequel in the same way, I would be just as frustrated with her.

I haven't read either of the two other books you mentioned. But I did read The Count of Monte Cristo a few months ago. I liked it alot more than Allende's.
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