Miserably Ever After
Like all good things, a book must come to an end.
I hope everyone has had the half pleasure, half torture of finishing an amazing book or series that you never wanted to end. Of wishing you could go back and experience it again for first time. Better yet, if you could just live in that beautiful story.
But, there has to be a The End at some point. Whether for good books, good songs, or reaching the bottom of a now-empty coffee cup. A truly bittersweet thing.
As I've previously mentioned, I'm reading the Throne of Glass series, and am now on the very last book. Which is terribly unfair. I'm not quite sure what to expect for an ending...I'm somewhat leaning toward a happily-ever-after, but it could just as easily be a heart-wrencher.
Personally, I like bittersweet endings. I'm not going to stick my nose in the air and claim that the happily-ever-after trope is, ahem, beneath me, but I still prefer that bit of sorrow, that not quite so happily-ever-after. To me, that's more realistic. I don't necessarily want a depressing ending. But it can be sad without being downright gloomy. There has to be closure, and preferably, there should be some light at the tunnel, some reward for the characters' toils.
I'm sorta-kinda-iffy-but-maybe working on a new WIP story, even though to anyone who asks I say "No I'm not writing anymore." Well, I'm not writing upward of 5,000 words a week anymore. Maybe 5,000 words a month, if homework and real work allows. Which to me barely even counts as writing. So anyway, don't ask if I'm writing. And definitely don't ask what I'm writing--you will receive no more than a wary, sideways glance and fumbling responses that offer no information. (That's not just me--most writers suck at describing their WIPs.)
Point is, while vaguely working on this almost-WIP, I'm debating how I want to end it. (The poor thing is barely in the beginning stages and I'm already contemplating the end.) Initially I was thinking all-out sad. Bring on the tears and the pint of Ben & Jerry's to cope, bro.
I was going to do that with the Dragon and Storm series. End it on a more or less wretched note. In the end, my brother--who read my unpublished drafts and gave feedback--suggested it could maybe do with a little less depressive-ness. I wrote an exploratory, "experiment" scene to make that decrepit little light at the end of the tunnel a bit brighter. And in writing that scene, in finding myself more content with the conclusion to the story, I realized my brother was right. So the scene got to stay, and be the final piece of the published story.
And I decided that in both reading and writing, I like the bittersweet endings. The realistic, authentic endings, that don't sugarcoat or shy away from loss or sacrifice, but that seek to find the beauty in it. To show the hard-earned reward, the hard-won peace.
So Queens of War doesn't have the happiest of happily-ever-afters. But instead of ending on the bitter, it ends on the sweet that comes after. Like Sour Patch Kids. (That's their motto, right? Sour, then sweet?) I love Sour Patch Kids, so it felt fitting to include them in this meandering monologue.
The ending can really pack the punch of a book. Even if the rest of the book is mediocre, a good ending can leave a longer-lasting impression on the reader than the middle that sagged. Alternatively, I've read books that were great in the beginning and middle...but the ending just left me disappointed or frustrated. It left things unresolved.
A book I read somewhat recently that managed an excellent, hit-to-the-gut sad ending that still felt right was The Lost Girl by Sandu Mandanna. You should probably go read it. Just saying.
But, despite an ever-growing TBR pile that I will probably die still trying to complete, I'm always on the look out for another good read, preferably with spectacular--sad, happy, or both--ending. What books have you read with breathtaking endings? With cry-me-a-river-and-get-me-that-Ben-and-Jerry's endings, or close-the-book-smiling endings?
And if you read Queens of War and are willing to give some commentary, I'd love to know what you thought of the ending. Maybe some feedback will save my barely-fledgling WIP from a miserable end. :)