Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writerly Wednesday

We interrupt your regularly scheduled WIP Wednesday for a more involved writerly post. (Stop telling me writerly isn't a word, Blogger. It is if I say it is.) I've noticed that a lot of books (and movies) don't seem to like tying up their loose ends at the end of the story, and frankly, it annoys me.

I understand that your book is part of a series, but can't you find a better way to end it than just dropping me off a steep cliff? Do you have to make it such an abrupt ending? I really don't get it. Look at Harry Potter or Percy Jackson: you knew there were going to be other books in the series, but each one could stand on its own. There was always a plot line or two left that the author didn't completely tie up, but there was a sense of completion at the end of each book. Together they made up a larger picture, but each one was a picture in and of itself.

"This journey is over, but there's always room for another" they each promised. Each book had its own problems, but you could pick up book three without reading the first two and still enjoy it. You would more than likely want to go back afterward and read what you had missed just to have a better understanding of the world, but it's possible not to. Unless you want to keep reading, though I suppose you could just start in the middle of a series and continue without ever going back. I digress...

A lot of series books don't do that any more. Or at least from where I'm sitting. They tie up a few of the plot strings, leave others flailing in the wind, and then pull another handful out right before the book ends just to keep you hanging on. This does not make me want to keep reading. This pisses me off.

Yes, I will still read book two if I really enjoyed the first one, but if it was just an okay read then chances are when book two gets released (more than likely) a year later I'm not going to remember that I wanted to read it. I'm going to remember how much I hated being dropped off a cliff and I'm going to pick something else up instead.

Series books can set up the next installment without ending abruptly or having no real sense of completion. I just finished Jeri Smith-Ready's teen debut Shade (review tomorrow), and at the end you know there's more to the story, but you aren't going to want to slam your head into a wall as you shout "WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!" at the top of your lungs or throw it across the room in frustration. You may love it so much that you shout that anyway, but that's a totally different thing. There are tactful ways to do this, finding and applying them is the difference between a good writer and a great one.

How do you feel about sequel set ups and abrupt endings? Do any books come to mind?

PS (yea, I know I didn't actually say goodbye or anything) - Here are a few posts from others around the internet that I felt the need to share with you all:

Paperback Writer gives a bunch of great ways to get to know your characters.

Sarah J Maas spells out the Five Rules to Remember When Breaking Into Publishing in an inspirational and helpful post.

Kristen Nelson tells a great story that I think is a fantastic example of why you should never give up if publishing is your dream. The battle isn't over just because you got an agent.

Maureen Johnson on being your own person.

And finally, why Sarah LaPolla (and other agents) are sure to automatically delete your query letter. If you like Sarah, and even if you don't, come back Friday for a special agent interview with the lovely Ms. LaPolla! :)


Palindrome said...

Whoa! Thanks for all the links!

I hate the drop off endings. I want some sort of resolution. That's why I'm still reading Sookie Stackhouse. She ends the main mystery.

I can't think of any cliffhangers right now but they are extremely frustrating. I usually forget to read the next one or I just wait until they finish and read them all at once. To me it's laziness on the author's part.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know I gave up on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time because it kept going and going and going... with no resolution in sight.

Season ending cliffhangers in my TV series are annoying as well, but somehow I always tune back in to find out how it ends.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I've noticed the same thing with a number of books and like you, it pisses me off. I think I actually threw Catching Fire across the room when I finished because that was NOT a satisfying conclusion! And Beautiful Creatures just strung me along and left me hanging. Ugh. That's part of why I love Rick Riordan and Maggie Stiefvater. Their books are awesome start to finish.

Jemi Fraser said...

I prefer the books in a series to be stand alones. I do like series, but I don't like to be left hanging.

Susan Fields said...

I think the Harry Potter books are a great model for how books in a series can stand on their own. Each book has the same main goal (defeat Voldemort), but each one has its own smaller goal (get back the Sorcerer's Stone, save Hogwarts from whatever's in the Chamber of Secrets, etc.) that gets solved by the end of the book. One more thing those books did really well.


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