Recently I came to the ending of a couple of books that I’d been SO looking forward to. One was the final book in a trilogy and the other was a standalone sequel. There I was, boppin’ along happily, enjoying the story and the writing (well, more for that standalone sequel than the trilogy finale, but that’s unrelated). There’s a big confrontation in both. The heroes are backed into a corner. DEATH is on the line! I’m thinking, “Woah, how are they going to get out of it all?? This is going to be great!!” while at the same time a frightened part of me is praying the authors won’t go for some cliche deus ex machina cop-out to haul the protags assess out of the fire.
I get to the plot’s crescendo AND…
Yeah, both went with the saw-it-coming-a-mile-away, take-the-easy-road, one-fell-swoop solution to ALL the problems ending.
I shambled around the house afterward feeling gloomy. My husband asked if something happened at work or if I argued with my mother, to which I replied, “No, it’s worse. I have book blues.” His face got really still like he was trying very hard not to roll his eyes or make that wry smirk of his that says, “Reeeeally?” I guess since he’s a social worker this sort of mood crasher seems a tad exaggerated given the things he sees everyday. Hm, he has a point, but STILL!
Has this ever happened to anyone else? When the end of a book you’ve been dying to read just completely disappoints? I’ll admit I’m a bit of an odd duck–I know, you’re shocked, right?–when it comes to endings. I can absolutely accept an unhappy ending as long as it makes sense and isn’t just trying to be avant guarde about it (Don’t get me going on The Departed’s stupid ending).
I can also be good with happy endings, as long as there isn’t too much shiny-shiny-the world is at peace-everybody lives-no one had to sacrifice squat. AND, most importantly, as long as the ending included characters fighting their own way out of trouble and not simply delivered from it by some other “all powerful” force rushing in from the sidelines to resolve the problem and defeat the “Big Bad”.
These two books I mentioned were traditionally published which really leaves me scratching my head as to how these lazy-written endings (because when you get down to brass tacks, that’s what they were) got through the author’s team of editors, critiquers, and beta readers. Granted, these are very big authors so maybe the publishing house didn’t bother with much polish time because they knew they were going to make a ton of money no matter what. That irks me, particularly since they now own my money too and didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.
When I finished the review draft of my first novel, I sent it out to trusted beta readers before I contracted an editor. Being a novice author, I admit there was some deus ex machina toward the end. Yeah, my betas all jabbed fingers at it and said, “Nuh-uh. Make the characters we’ve been rooting for take the spotlight.” I took their advice and rewrote the entire ending (yes, the whole thing, several chapters worth) and I’m so grateful for their feedback because it was 100% better. In fact, my editor only had minor notes for it.
The point is, I realize it’s easy to fall into the cheap fix to a story’s problem, but that should never make it out of the draft stage. The authors of the books I referenced are not novices but big names. Maybe it’s naive to hope that despite their fame they will still strive for their best rather than “good enough to sell”. Yes, it’s a business but at the heart of it, it’s art. To me, art deserves our best every time.
Has anyone else had the “book blues”? Ever get to the end of a read you were excited about only to see it unravel?