So I’m thinking now that I write that title down and see it’s about a mile long, that this will probably be a three-part blog event. No matter.
Today – Different Types of Endings
Tomorrow- Why I’m Bad at Them
Thursday – How I Might Get Better
Friday – Skateboarding and Writing Part II
There, that was easy.
So, today, different types of endings. There are a lot of variations, but I’d say all endings can be separated into two basic categories: satisfying and not.
Now, I have to point out quickly that there are some unsatisfying endings that are still the “correct” endings, I think. That is to say that not all un-satisfying endings are bad.
My roommate and I pick apart the endings of TV series finales quite a bit and try to figure out which ones were the best and why.
[Semi-spoiler alert on Gilmore Girls series finale]……………………….. Ok, so Gilmore Girls is a perfect example. I think it had one of the best series finales out there, but I think it’s arguable that it wasn’t a very satisfying ending. Rory has no boyfriend, no prospects even. She doesn’t have the job of her dreams really. Lorelai and Luke are not married. In fact, they aren’t even engaged. But, the last episode works because the series finale focuses on the heart of the show–Lorelai and Rory’s relationship. And, as a secondary matter, their relationship with the town of Star’s Hollow.
Same goes for Everybody Loves Raymond.
The point is that an ending needs to center around the focal point of the story. If that doesn’t lend itself to some big Ross and Rachel moment, then it doesn’t. Is it less satisfying? Sure. Do I want to know who Rory ended up with? Absolutely. But I don’t and that’s okay because that wasn’t the end of our glimpse into Rory’s story.
Examples of endings that are generally “satisfying”: Happily Ever After, Mysteries Solved, Tragic Ending, Mission Accomplished
Examples of endings that are generally not: Cliffhangers, Abrupt endings, Guess-the-endings
Now, in writing this post Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott kept coming to mind. And I have to note that a lot of people found this ending unsatisfying. Can I be blunt? I think those people are just wrong. To me, it is absolutely clear what happened at the end of that book. Yes, you have to think through it. But, if you do, you’ll realize that the foundation was laid for that exact ending and that the symbolism and weight behind the ending is what makes the entire story haunting. I’ll admit, I had to check with a few people just to make sure that I got the answer right, but how cool is that? It was an ending that stuck with me so much that it forced to go have a conversation about it.
This is all to say that it is not the emotion evoked that determines whether an ending is inherently satisfying v. unsatisfying. A satisfying ending can be heartbreaking or happy and an unsatisfying ending can certainly be either hopeful or depressing.
I will say that, as a warning, I think that unsatisfying endings can come off as a bit sloppy if not absolutely necessary to the story. It can feel as if the author raised a bunch of issues, but didn’t quite know how to tie them together. So, beware.
Can anyone think of a particularly unsatisfying ending that was artfully done and necessary to the story? What endings do you hate?