The mail I get: Endings

Readers email me.

I just finished your new book “Phantom Instinct” which I thought was good. But…. It seems there must be something in the new journalistic style where authors are leaving the reader with lots of unanswered questions at the end of the book. I do not understand this new style and don’t like it. There is so much minutia in the beginning, middle and in the end left hanging. It is frustrating. And while I understand that you may be tired towards the end and just want it to be done, you leave the reader hanging. Please consider the reader and understand that when we get towards the end of the book, with just a few pages left, you know you are going to be unsatisfied because it just kind of ends. What ever happened to beginning, middle and end? I believe there should be as much emphasis on the end as in the beginning. Please consider my comments on your next book. Thank you.

I really do enjoy your books!

I appreciate this reader’s courtesy. It was thoughtful of her to tell me that she enjoys my novels even though she was writing with a complaint.

I replied:

Thanks for your message. I’m glad you enjoyed Phantom Instinct. It’s true that modern novels often don’t tie up all loose ends in a story. Honestly, it’s not because of fatigue — I spend a year writing a novel, and would never just end a story because I was tired of working on it. But I will remember that some readers do wish to know how all threads in a story wrap up.

Of course, there are also sequels.

I don’t write epilogues that lay out how all the characters resolve every issue in the story. I don’t have an Animal House-style “Where are they now?” postscript. Though, if any of my books become movies, that would be awesome.

Does anybody else have an opinion on this?

9 responses to “The mail I get: Endings

  1. I understand where the reader is coming from. After getting to know the characters in a story, you want to know what happens to them. Of course this has to be balanced with allowing that same reader the opportunity to make up their own conclusions.

    The ending, whatever the writing style, shouldn’t stray too far away from the “lived happily ever after” side of the scale.

  2. I must be incredibly dense. Not wrapping up a story is one thing I never associate with a Meg Gardiner novel. I would be interested to know what the letter writer was specifically upset about.

  3. Must admit, I’ve never read a Meg novel. My take is that in a series, there can be overarching threads that are not completed within a novel. As long as each novel is fair to the reader, I will come back for those threads. I doubt Meg is unfair to her readers.

  4. well, I’m no fan of the “three years later” kind of epilogue, where the reader is treated to the younger sister’s wedding where everyone shows up with their respective spouses and children and we learn that grandma passed away peacefully in her sleep just last year, her life’s work done. In fact, the only epilogue I like to see is something that perhaps answers a burning question that couldn’t be known at the end of the book. And then only as brief as possible.

  5. Rich, I don’t know precisely what it is the reader wishes I had wrapped up more neatly or explained at greater length. It’s true that Phantom Instinct leaves a thread unresolved — though the characters acknowledge this and indicate that they’re going to attempt to resolve it. Perhaps that uncertainty is what scratches at her. I plead guilty to deliberately leaving things off balance — the book’s a thriller about trust, betrayal, and the impossibility of assuring that events will turn out the way you want them to.

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