I would like to introduce you to Jeanette Baker. She is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, published by Pocket, Kensington and Mira Books, many of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Today’s guest blog is about what its like to finally put “the end” on a book.
Thank you, Jeanette. Without further ado:
Endings are hugely important, maybe even more important than beginnings. Bad beginnings can be forgiven if the rest of the book flows well, but an unsatisfactory ending lingers, destroying everything that went before. You know the endings I’m talking about, the to-be-continued endings when the sequel isn’t yet out, the choose-your-own ending, the surprise ending that introduces a completely new character. These endings inevitably leave the reader feeling cheated, resolving to choose the next novel more wisely, possibly even flipping to the end to be sure future novels don’t end in disappointment. What, then, constitutes a satisfying ending? How does a writer know when her novel is finished, the threads tied together, every “i” dotted and “t” crossed?
The answer lies in understanding story structure. Structure in prose is as important as bars in music. Just as musicians know a tune must “count,” writers know how and where to place the elements of a story. A satisfying story begins with a problem, moves toward rising action which complicates and, somewhere near the end of the novel, reaches a crisis point followed by resolution of the conflict. The ending is particularly satisfying when the characters, which the reader now cares about, are sorted out. While plots, characters, settings and conflicts change, story structure does not. Readers may not be familiar with terminology, but they know when conflict isn’t developed or a climax occurs too soon. Something won’t feel quite right.
Having said which endings don’t work, there are quite a few that do; the full circle ending is particularly successful. This involves a story begun after the fact, usually told by a narrator, one of the characters, who guides the reader through the story until it ends again with the narrator. The novel that comes to mind is the children’s classic, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. Another favorite ending is the emotional ending when someone, an animal for example, is presumed lost forever only to return as in THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. The mystery is solved ending is another favorite. Loose ends are tied up, red herrings explained and the villain, a familiar character, revealed. Agatha Christie was a master of the mystery solved ending. In romance novels, the ending is always a satisfying one where the two lovers are united for life. Readers expect this kind of ending so much so that a novel isn’t labeled a romance unless the ending holds true to type.
Skilled writers are familiar with word count and shelf space. Depending on the genre, an author knows where and when a book should wrap up and works toward that end from the very beginning, usually with some type of outline. Even with electronic books removing the need to conserve shelf space, genre writers have a good idea of how long their books need to be to satisfy a fan base. Readers are sensitive and knowledgeable. Timing is crucial. Word choice is important. It’s a writer’s job to know when enough is enough. Having said that, I wish you a satisfying read.
Jeanette’s newest book, Tuesday’s Child, has been available for Kindle since January of this year.
Possessed of a luminous beauty and a delicate grace that belied her spirit and fierce intelligence, Tess Bradford left Maryland for London on a mission of greatest importance. Her husband, a devout patriot, had been seized by the British navy, and only one man could help her secure his release. He was James Devereaux, Duke of Langley, and former aide to Wellington. But Tess wasn’t prepared for the passion that burned beneath Devereaux’s implacable demeanor.
Wealthy and powerful, Devereaux could choose any woman he wanted to provide him with an heir. But Tess sparked in him a raging duel of loyalties. She was an American—and someone else’s wife. Yet she aroused a desire that could destroy his reason…or ignite a love as strong as the winds of battle that raged around them—a love too powerful to resist.
Please check out her website and blog.