16 October 2012

How it all ends

Currently, I'm reading a book by a talented author I truly respect for her smooth and fascinating writing style. What I love when I find a good book is the worry I put myself through guessing the ending. Yes, I've said it before, I'm a masochist.

Which got me thinking...in how many ways can a book, with good intrigue and suspense, end? The answer was simple; in one of four ways:

  • The good guy/hero wins:
They win the whole battle without a hint for a sequel. This is a good approach if it's a standalone, however, if it's a series, it sorta ends there.

  • The bad guy/monster wins:
This is seen in genres like thriller or horror. When you grab a romantic novel, even the hero's death is a win. Evil prevails only in the darker fiction.

  • The good guy/hero wins but...:
He has a son who will demand revenge, or the monster has left one egg unhatched. It is also possible that the hero offers a sacrifice even though he's won. He might've lost his inheritance, or his dear mother died, or he lost an arm...you name it. Works well for a series but it doesn't have to be part of one.

  • The bad guy/monster wins...but:
There's a chance the hero or his followers will demand a rematch. Can be a standalone for darker fiction, but it can also be the cliffhanger to keep readers coming back for more of the series until evil is vanquished completely.

Having summarized all possible endings here, it's clear that when a masterful author is at work, a reader can never guess HOW the ending will be. In romance, for example, you know the hero and heroine will be together at the end...the question is, how will they overcome all the impossible obstacles in their path and reach there!
Also, you have to consider how likeable the hero is and how much you're rooting for his success.

With the book I'm currently reading, I'm happy to report that I have no clue which of those four endings will occur. Totally loving it :-D


  1. Fascinating post.
    Having taught English and Media, I'm aware of narrative theories, (Barthes, Strauss, Propp etc) but I never really thought about story endings fitting specific patterns, which is very remiss of me. Reader enjoyment can only be enhanced when expectations are properly met, so this is valuable food for thought, Su.
    Thank you - great post!

  2. You're welcome, Lyn. I'm glad you liked the post.