“Even when we know the characters ain’t riding off into the sunset at the end, we allow ourselves to be pulled on their emotional journeys, investing pieces of ourselves in their own doomed outcomes.”
As readers, we experience a range of complicated emotions. Our spirits soar with our favorite characters as they achieve hard-fought success, and we feel for them when they face difficulty and failure. No matter what kind of books you like to read, we’re sure you’ve experienced emotions as your characters struggle along their personal journeys.
In the pages of a book, your reading journey can have limitless twists and turns, all of which tug at the heartstrings. But one thing is certain. No matter how many pages it takes, the journey will come to an end on the very last page.
Sometimes, an ending brings relief. Other times, an ending brings triumph and joy over the realization of a character’s dreams. And still other times, books end in failure, and the thing our characters crave the most ends up eluding them. Endings can be well-written or not. They answer questions or leave you wanting more. If you’re like us, sometimes you can find yourself tossing a book down, thinking: ‘Really? That’s all you’re going to give me?’
Here at The Chaptr, we love a good ending. So, buckle up–we’re digging into some classic endings and the feelings they might evoke.
The ‘Neat Little Bow’ Happy Ending
We aren’t in the game to spoil anything here, so we won’t be naming names, but how much do you love a nice, clean, happy ending? Endings where villains are vanquished, hopeless romantics find love, and that thing you thought was a weakness in the beginning turns out to be the neat little key to a character’s success? These kinds of books tie all the threads and leave us feeling like everything’s going to be a-okay.
Is it the most profound way to end a book? No. The most realistic? Nope, not by a long shot. But damn if it doesn’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy.
Some books teach us about complicated subjects. Some help us understand the world just a little bit better. Some transport us to a new world, where solutions have finality and everyone gets what they deserve. It’s escapism at its best and, having survived 2020, I don’t think we need to make a case for some good, old-fashioned escapism. Cue the rainbow, smiles all around, fade to black. Love it.
The ‘OMG What Just Happened’ Ending
If you read psychological thrillers, you know all about this kind of ending. These are the shockers. Endings so full of twists, it feels like a rollercoaster ride. Reading books like this have you nervous to blink for fear you’ll miss something important.
We love these books (and books are the perfect medium for stories like this) because the second we’re finished, I mean the SAME SECOND, we’re flipping back through looking for hints in all the details we might have missed.
‘She was wearing a mask the WHOLE time?’
‘Wait, so HE was the key to the entire demonic dimension?’
You get the idea.
There are authors who write exclusively in this style, and half the fun of reading their books is to play detective, daring them to try to fool you again. HINT: They can. That’s why we love them.
The Realistic Book Ending
Look, it’s a sad fact and a hard lesson everyone has to learn. Life is complicated. Roses have thorns. Fireflies die after a night in a jar. Everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows.
Many great authors tell stories that reflect this sad fact back to us. And yet we read them anyway because the journey their characters endure can improve our own understanding of the messiness of life. Things might not work out in the way our hero expected, but generally speaking, the hero (or the reader) has learned something that makes this bitter pill slightly easier to swallow.
All lessons have a price, but sometimes it’s nice to let a fictional character pay it. These endings can be tricky to master, but authors who write books like this add greatly to the societies in which they live.
The Heartbreaker book ending
A friend of mine was staying with me once. I heard her one morning in the other room, crying. These weren’t wipeaway tears, no, these were torrents, floods, waterfalls of snot and sobs. I went to see what was wrong and she handed me a book by a popular author. ‘I just finished this book,’ she said. ‘It’s so sad. You have to read it.’
I took the book and despite the promise that I’d finish and be left in a state of emotional wreckage, I read it.
I wept. And I recommended it to everyone.
I’m not exactly sure why we’re drawn to stories that shatter us, but there’s no denying their power. Even when we know the characters ain’t riding off into the sunset at the end, we allow ourselves to be pulled on their emotional journeys, investing pieces of ourselves in their own doomed outcomes. Is this another form of sadistic self-torture? Or a way to revel in the vulnerability we all have, and feel a bit more human?
The ‘This Can’t be Right’ Book Ending
Endings are hard. As an author myself, I can absolutely, 100% attest to this fact. That said, sometimes at the conclusion of a story, an author veers way, way off the mark. Even great authors succumb to rotten book ending, allowing their story to fall flat on its face.
No matter the reason, a bad book ending can ruin an otherwise great story. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s deflating. Almost makes you feel like you wasted the last 28 pages of your life.
When this happens, here’s my suggestion: Return the book to the bookshelf, close your eyes, and think of a different book ending. Then, spend the next few minutes telling yourself that your ending was the way it really happened. Look, we live in a multiverse, right? Two things can be true at once. Go to the gift wrapping closet, find a bright red bow, and tie up those loose ends any way you see fit. And don’t let anyone tell you Ol’ Yeller isn’t playing fetch somewhere, next to a cool, slow stream.
Okay, I guess I broke my own spoiler rule. Twist!
So now I have to ask: Which book ending is your favorite?