The Art of the Ending: Can it be satisfying?

What do Mockingjay, Deathly Hallows, Alleigant and Return of the King have in common? They are all the final installments in their respective series. With that distinction comes a heavy burden. For the most part, these final novels have left their readers divided. Some people love the books, some people hate them. One thing is for certain, they do not share the same acclaim as their predecessors which begs the question: is there such a thing as a perfect ending?

While most individual novels end in a satisfying way, it is quite difficult for authors to craft a pleasing ending for a series, especially one written for young adults. The problem not only plagues literature, but film conclusions as well. The latest Batman series won critical acclaim thanks to the first two films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. However, when it came to The Dark Knight Rises, fans were ultimately disappointed. That isn’t the only final film to fall short of expectations. Spiderman 3, Superman 4 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 all suffered the same fate. Why you may ask? The answer is actually quite simple. Readers build a relationship with characters and want certain things to happen to them. When things don’t necessarily go their way, the final result can ultimately yield disappointment. Of course, the fault only partially lies with the reader. Many times, writers lose steam when they come to the end of a series or have no idea how to tie up loose ends. 

Take Allegiant for example. The third and final installment in the Divergent series, Allegiant enraged fans by **SPOILER ALERT** killing off the main character Tris. Author Veronica Roth said that she had planned the ending all along, but many fans were skeptical. After all, there was nothing in the previous two novels to indicate that Tris would meet such an end. It felt as though Allegiant ended the way it did to distance itself from similar novels. All three books–Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant–while entertaining, suffer from a lack of focus. Roth doesn’t seem to have an idea of where the series is going and that is particularly evident in Allegiant’s ending. The release date for Allegiant had to be pushed back a few times and Roth added chapters that featured Tobias’ point of view, telegraphing the ending from the very first page.

Mockingjay, the third and final book in The Hunger Games series, is also the most hated book in the trilogy. Loose ends are hastily wrapped up and the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, spends much of the book as a pawn rather than the rebel rouser seen in the previous two volumes. **SPOILER ALERT*** Finnick, a fan favorite character, meets his end in a rather anticlimactic way and is never mentioned again. It felt as though author Suzanne Collins was pressed for time.

Even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, have their share of naysayers. As a writer who one days plans to publish a space fantasy series for young adults, crafting a satisfying ending is extremely important to me. At the same time, I understand that pleasing everyone is nearly impossible.

Has anyone struggled with writing an ending? I am working on my second novel now and I have the beginning and the middle, but I do not know how to end it. How much thought do you put into your endings? Are they important to you? How can you make it satisfying? Sound off in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “The Art of the Ending: Can it be satisfying?

  1. Read Deathly Hallows eons ago and remember feeling less than happy about the ending. The ending itself was too happy ever after. But there were parts throughout the last book as a whole that were very satisfying for tye whole series.

    Trying to think if the last time I read a series with a satisfying ending… Seems like a helluva task writing an ending for a beloved series, one that people never want to read the end of.

  2. I think it really depends on the reader. I enjoyed the Deathly Hallows ending because I really wanted Harry to finally have his happy ending. But for the most part, I don’t find most endings satisfying.

  3. As far as writing endings, I usually know how it’s going to end. Maybe not down to every single little detail or exactly scene-by-scene, but I always have a general idea. And I change my mind a lot, so I may write two or three versions of it before I decide the final ending. (I’ve re-written my current novel twice from scratch and I am working on a third.)

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