Bad endings

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I recently finished reading “Guilt” by Australian author Matt Nable. I read the book over a period of 24 hours. 1, because I was sick, and it was a good excuse to feel sorry for myself on the couch and read and 2, because it was an intriguing read. But…

The ending.

Have you ever read a book, or watched a movie or perhaps even the end of a TV series and been horribly disappointed?

After reading the last page, I was left perplexed. It wasn’t the ending that I was feverishly reading towards, and I must admit I felt a little let down. It wasn’t until a few days later, after the story and it’s ending simmered in my thoughts that I realised it was the only ending that would have worked. I really like books that don’t tie things up in neat packages. I like endings that let me wonder what happens next. Does the character learn a lesson? Is their future brighter? Will they move past the events of the book a better person? It leaves something to the imagination. But it doesn’t work for every story of course. Some stories need definitive endings. They need resolution. And that too is okay.

I like books that don’t tie things up in neat packages. I like endings that leave me wondering what happens next. Does the character learn a lesson? Is their future brighter? Will they move past the events of the book a better person? It leaves something to the imagination. But it doesn’t work for every story of course. Some stories need definitive endings. They need resolution. And that too is okay.

In the case of “Guilt”, I think I would have been more disappointed if Nable had spelt it all out in black and white. It would have been a disservice to the story and the writing otherwise.

I must admit, there have been a few books where I really didn’t like the ending. “Gone Girl” comes to mind, but I sense that was the intention of the author. “Gone Girl” isn’t a book you could say “Wow! I loved it”. Enthralling? Yes. Gripping? Yes. But enjoyable, no. In that case though, I just wanted both the characters to become better people, but they didn’t.

Endings are subjective though. What one person finds fitting and suitable, another may find frustrating. And the writer’s intentions need to be considered too. As a writer, I can certainly understand that the ending sometimes just has to be – there is no other way. I’m sure editors and publishers would disagree saying the ending has to be satisfactory to the reader, more than the author.

When it comes down to it, I like endings that are real. Just like life. Nothing is ever perfect, questions are never fully answered, problems never completely solved. I like an ending that lingers in my consciousness¬†and then seeps into my subconsciousness, surfacing now and then to remind me of the characters. For me, that’s the mark of a good ending.

 

What endings (books, TV, film) have left you disappointed?