What Readers Like (And Don't) About Endings


*sigh* Aww.
That perfect moment when a story has been told, the emotions have been felt and the euphoria sets in as that last page is turned and a contented sigh escapes. Anyone who has read a fabulous book has felt that addicting feeling of contentment upon a finished adventure, well enjoyed. It’s why we read, it’s what makes stories so enduring and so beloved. What makes that last page turn, with a contented sigh? What allows a story to rise to the level of greatness, to be read over and over again, just for that lovely feeling of joy the ending elicits? That is the quest of every author worthy of their salt. And it’s not an easy answer, as the perfect ending has always been the most elusive of gifts.
In today’s free-for-all world of publishing, the search for that consummate end-point has taken on a myriad of faces. Authors are becoming more and more creative as they search for ways to hook their readers and bring them back, while giving them the satisfaction of a story well told. Any avid reader will be the first to tell you that some of those attempts work, while some of them crash and burn spectacularly.
While there are a plethora of ways to end a book, there are three main categories that cover the overall aspect of endings: the HEA ending, the cliffhanger ending, and the full-stop ending. Let’s take a look at each to better understand the pluses and minuses of using them.
First, the HEA ending, the complete and total Happily Ever After. This is the classic ending. The one that has been successfully used through eons of time. It’s where the story has been told, the threads have been tied, and the curtain closes in a flourish, leaving the reader complete, having taken the journey, enjoyed the ride, and been left satisfied at the conclusion. It is the overall goal to achieve.
But, how to achieve that goal? In today’s world of internet, ebooks, quick turn-around publishing, Indie and traditional competition, and an absolute profusion of options in both authors and stories, the competition for obtaining and keeping readers is fierce. This has given rise to all sorts of hooks to grab readers and strategies to keep them. Authors have found that, often, closing the story happily does not always guarantee a reader will stick around and wait for the months (sometimes years) it takes to produce another book. There are just too many options that will take one’s attention away. Readers really are like kids in a candy store, so many varieties to choose from!

Read the entire article in the September 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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