I love books. I love reading them, I love losing myself in the worlds that are far-flung from my usual day-to-day routine, and lately I've been desperately searching for a novel that will actually surprise me, one that will genuinely catch me unawares - some might say 'Holy Grail', but I say, pffft - if you want it - it will come. Yesterday, I came to the end of a murder-crime-thriller, and to my 'horror', on page 482 of the 483 page novel, I found the main character was 'offed' - stabbed, left to die alone on a bed of leaves in the corner of some London cemetery.
Having read so far, i.e to the very end of the story, I was utterly appalled to find another senseless killing. Worse, I felt nothing for the character. I'm not sure what that says about the story overall, however this whole 'Killing Off Your Darlings' concept has gotten up my nose of late. And I have to ask myself - is it really worth it? Do we have no other alternative ending to stories? Because, 'hello' - in case you didn't know it, killing off characters is a little passe. So very last season. At least for ce moir, and I'm not alone on this one, right?
When I read endings which are mind-numbingly nonsensical, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My general reaction is cyclical - like this: Mild Annoyance -> Abusive Language -> Tosses Book Hard Across Room -> 'What The F**k - I could've been writing my own book' face, A***hole -> Angry Tweets About Book - Moves On To Next Book -> Goes Back to Start.
Last week, I stumbled across a tweet which I think is a great reminder of how passionate readers are about books - and this book in particular was about a Dystopian YA series where the MC bites the bullet at the end. I won't 'name' names because it's the reaction I'm interested in. The tweet was via @evilwylie, it's from an excerpt of a book review, it went something like this:
" Dear___, Your Characters Belong to Us, the Readers, Not You. How Dare You?"
Other reviews online for the same book were along the lines of: "WTF Ending? The End?" and, "I didn't see that coming - oh, but now I'm seeing a unicorn."
And I think, these reviewers comments sum up a lot of what I'm feeling about 'Unhappy Endings' right now. If you're writing - and you feel the need to kill someone off - please make sure it 'fits' the damn story. Don't kill your darlings because you think it makes you grittier or somehow, a more serious writer. Unless you're writing pantomimes, don't toss in another body for the bloody sake of a 'shock-horror' ending.
When readers connect to characters, and follow 'their' journey ( not yours), from Book One to Book Two - don't slam a 'ha-ha-gotcha' ending in Book Three. Because thats how it feels. I'll leave the final words of this ranty post to another reviewer. "I feel empty. I didn't think I'd feel empty." I think this translates to, that was boring - I read your book, you gave me nothing in return but sore eyes and a late start to the morning.
All in all, what I'm saying is this - don't go for the usual endings, it's boring - and when all is said and done, what the hell is so wrong with a happy ending? How's that for a twist?
PS: If you've waded through this post to the end - please do share any good reads you've found lately - I am hungry for some great books right now! Happy Halloween, Tricksters! XO