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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Good Ending Worth a Thousand Words

Ending novels are rough. You roll along for about a hundred thousand words and suddenly you know this thing has to end. The question is of course how to tie up all the ends without looking like you are tying up all the ends. Of course Hemingway and Fitzgerald discussed and used the dying fall which for thier time was fairly radical. The dying fall is you really dont' end the novel but sort of just let it fade away like the protagonist at the end of A Farewell to Arms. He walks home in the rain after Catherine dies and that is it.

But most novels we need some sort of resolution and it is amazing how many novelists can't quite pull it off. I just finished a novel where the story kept me engaged all the way along and then it ended. I didn't know it had ended and turned the page looking for the next chapter. It was blank. I turned back and reread the final paragraph again. This was it. This wasn't a dying fall, the author just couldn't figure how to get out of the story and so the book ended with a whimper.

Its not that the end has to have fireworks, but there should be some circling back to fulfill the promise of the beginning. Maybe not a perfect egg but at least a circle. If the author is lucky then the end will surprise you. The end should reveal something that comes like lightning to the author and the reader. It might be a gentle epiphany or it might be the smoking gun. But the point is there should be satisfaction to reader and writer alike that this is the end and there will be no more. A good ending allows us to close the book and nod, ah good book. And that is what every writer and every reader hopes for.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel Rocket Man is due out in the fall.

Books by William Hazelgrove