Do endings matter?

I recently had the chance to review a manuscript that I had sent back for revisions at the end of the summer. The first version ended sadly, with all hope of the romance succeeding being dashed to pieces. It broke my heart, but I could understand why the author made the choice she did. However, we suggested she change it because readers tend to prefer books that have happy endings.

I read the second draft with trepidation; sad as the ending had been, it had been earned. They were star-crossed lovers, so of course they would not end up together. Yet we had asked her to change it. What would Romeo and Juliet be like if they ended up happily ever after?

But the author pulled it off. While it wasn’t exactly a fairy-tale ending, the final pages ended with hope. Whereas before I had cast them aside to shed more tears, I now reread them to smile.

Both endings were earned by the story. By earned, I mean they weren’t forced or fake; it was easy to see the characters really acting that way. But the one that left me smiling was so much more fulfilling; it made me want to reread the entire book instead of hiding it away until I could bear the heartbreak again. This holds significance to writers – which experience do you want your readers to have? It also holds significance in the book market: which ending is more likely to get a consumer to buy the next book? So while I wasn’t sure when I got the second draft back, now I think that endings do matter.

2 thoughts on “Do endings matter?

  1. I always appreciate your questions and answer musings, Katie. I’ve noticed when telling people stories, they like to hear a good tear-jerker sad story, but only if it is followed up with something light and funny. In our culture, at least, Americans feel often feel jipped, robbed or dissatisfied if you leave them depressed. Look at the wonderful documentaries that have been made about the environment – but people don’t go back to watch them 10 times. They feel helpless. Who wants to feel depressed or helpless? Out of every sad or tragic ending, there must be a light; something to make sense of it all, or people will not encourage their friends to read. Look at how popular Forrest Gump was, and that was a REALLY sad story. But so much humor was included, along with that sweet ending of the child walking off with his Daddy and they both walked the same – leaving us with hope. An ending should be a beginning – and beginnings have to have hope or you’d quit right there. Don’t you think? Nice essay. I enjoyed that little conversation!!

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