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October 2, 2013

            With all the reading I do, I’m never at a loss for inspiration for my weekly articles. Case in point is a book I just finished. The author is a favorite. So far, I’ve read thirteen of his books and still have at least half as many, if not more before I’ve completed his catalog. His later works tend to be series where the earlier ones were usually stand-alones. So far, I’ve enjoyed every single one of them, even the one that’s the subject of this week’s article.

            This subject’s novel is by far, the bottom-of-the-barrel from this guy. The author seemed to be asleep-at-the-wheel, to borrow a much-used cliché. The story had a strong set of characters which were squandered with a story that ended with a flat and unsatisfying resolution.

The main character, a former cop, framed for a crime she didn’t commit, is fresh out of jail, intent on getting the big bust to redeem her rep while also finding who framed her. Unfortunately, she not only doesn’t find out who framed her (and hardly pursues that angle) but the big caper she does solve does nothing to get her back on the force. In addition, the bad guys virtually get away with it. Huh? What did Iread 569 pages for?

Let’s now look at your story. Is your plot clear-cut? Do your characters have clear goals and does your story have a satisfying resolution? Does it end well, in a way that will satisfy the reader? Are they going to be left scratching their head, are they going to be disappointed, pissed off, or are they going to close the book with a smile on their face?

Given that the main plot is clear and the main resolution is satisfying, what about those little pet things you like to throw in? Do they also have a resolution? Are they relevant? Remember, if you throw it in, it had better be in there for a reason. Don’t add a sub plot about Joe’s sister having a spurned lover come after her, but leave the reader hanging and never have the jerk arrested or killed or scared off for good. Even worse, resolve it in some unrealistic bizarre way that will jerk the reader out of the story.

Don’t throw in little details that send the reader off on a tangent that never leads them back to the main plot in a logical way. The story must flow smoothly, in a sequence, and not jerk in jumps, starts and spurts. Not only is that irritating to read, but it’s more likely for you to mess up one or more resolutions at the end.

I ask you, as a reader, would you want to invest all that time and emotion into reading a story only to have the ending dud out on you? I know I wouldn’t. I’d want some kind of payoff. I’ve talked many times about crappy and bad endings. There’s also such a thing as just plain unsatisfying, blah, mediocre and unresolved endings.

The ending is the most important part, the payoff. It’s what all those hundreds of pages have built up to.

What have you as a writer and they as a reader put all that time and effort into? To find out what happens. It damned well better be worth getting there!

Don’t disappoint with a half-assed phoned-in effort when your readers deserve more.

Happy writing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy West permalink
    October 2, 2013 2:35 am

    That’s a good reminder — the ending is the payoff. I’m writing a historical romance. in that genre, the protagonists have to marry or there had better be a good reason why they don’t. My governess and duke will marry, but the ending has to be special and unique to the couple. I comb my book daily for the details that will set their coming-together apart from other books in the genre. I recently read “Phillida” by Andre Brink, closed the book and cried and couldn’t start another book for a week. Brink wrote the perfect ending: everybody stayed true to who they were. I like your posts, Fred, and will read your books. Thank you for not mentioning the government shutdown.

    • October 3, 2013 1:07 am


      Thank you. I really appreciate the comments! There’s nothing like a story that ends well. In the article I was going to mention Breaking Bad. I never watched the show, but a lot of people came away happy with the way it ended. I wouldn’t have liked it because the hero (or anti-hero) died. Yet, that was the only way it could have ended. It was a perfect ending for that story. Nonetheless, critics also said the writers didn’t close all of the loose ends, only some of them. So, it wasn’t a perfect ending.

      In a novel, there should be no excuse for leaving loose threads. You shouldn’t be in a rush to get it out like a TV series.

      And, as for the shutdown? I won’t even go there!

      You rock!


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