Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ending Well

There are two main mistakes authors make with the ending of their book. And they’re complete opposites.

First we have the author who has been warned about leaving loose threads, so she goes through her book very carefully and in the final chapter she makes reference to every single character, however minor, and what happens to them, their house, their gun, their cat… The book is tied up so tightly with so many pretty pink bows that there is no possible way of ever writing a sequel, or even another book in that world.

Loose threads are bad. The reader left wondering what happened to the main characters is bad. The reader left feeling saddened that there’ll never be another book in this world because there’s nothing left to say is also bad.

The second type of mistake is the author who introduced a ghost in chapter four and forgets to mention him again, has the hero’s three best friends standing on the edge of a crumbling cliff in chapter ten, and never mentions them again, and generally has so many unfinished story threads the reader is left wondering how the heroine could ever be happy in that world.

It is fine to leave an overarching plot thread hanging. It’s not fine to have a character the reader cares about in deadly peril unless book two is edited and scheduled for release a month after book one. Even then the author’s email account may well be filled with anguished emails from readers for the next few weeks.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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