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June 26, 2019

I’ve covered endings twice, so far at Fred Central. Crappy Endings and Crappy Endings Revisited appeared in 2012 and 2017 respectively and for good reason. The ending can have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the story, and it’s the same for a lot of other people.

The other day at the writer’s group, our el-presidente brought up the subject of endings as an impromptu discussion subject, and we had a nice lively chat about it. However, after everyone, including me had their say, I was not able to give the caveat to why I felt the way I do about endings.

That leads me to the main gist of today’s discussion.



This is the real reason that determines what type of endings one is able to tolerate. Since this discussion primarily focuses on fiction, why do you read?

We’re not talking about non-fiction because it has a pre-determined, and inarguable conclusion. You can’t change history or real subject matter unless it’s opinion or philosophical discussion.

However, with fiction, it’s entirely up to the author to decide how the book ends. In that regard, you, as the reader decide why you’re reading.


When you read for pure entertainment, it’s all a matter of taste. The ending may or may not matter, depending on your personality. It can be a happy or a bummer ending, depending on how you swing.


Same as pure entertainment. Can go either way.


Same as the other two.


I could’ve lumped the previous three and this category together, but broke them down for illustrative purposes. Like the other categories, open to anything means the reader doesn’t mind happy or bummer endings. They don’t feel ripped off when the hero dies.


Here’s where things get a bit more complicated. I’m in this category. My whole purpose of reading fiction is to escape the real world. Unlike any of the other categories, which of course, include bits of the rest in there, as well, my MAIN goal of reading is to escape reality. I don’t want anything to do with the real world. I want a happy ending. If the ending’s a bummer where the hero (or everyone) dies, I automatically hate the book. If I want reality, I’ll watch the news, get a college textbook, or a non-fiction book. When I read fiction, I read explicitly for a happy ending! That’s the whole point.

I don’t want to learn any life lessons, I don’t want to get emotionally jerked around. I don’t want to get philosophized up the yin yang about this and that. If some or all of those things are thrown into the mix, fine, as long as the story ends on a high note. That high note had better not be bittersweet, where the hero dies, or where there’s any kind of bummer. I don’t want to hear “well, it’s like real life.”

I know very well what real life is like. I’ve certainly lived long enough to experience all that, and still see enough of it all around me every day. The last thing I want to do is read about it in a damn book! I’m trying to escape all of that!

A large number of people escaping from reality feel the same way.


This is where the negative or bummer endings really come into play. The Debbie Downer group love bummer endings. They love the big twist at the end where not only the hero dies, but everything turns to crap. They love to be shocked.

When the author turns the whole story on its head, the negative people love it. It enforces their negative view of the world. That’s why certain authors, infamous for doing this, sell a lot of books. While they have plenty of haters, they also have substantial followings.

There’s the group of people that are bored with happy. They specifically want reality in their fiction because they’re sick of happy and “unrealistic” endings. That’s not real life. They cannot stand the fantasy of happy, or simply like to switch it out once in a while.

There’s a big audience that loves to grovel in their misery.


It all boils down to why you’re picking up the book in the first place. That turns around to you, as a writer, and what your goal is, and what type of audience you’re trying to attract.

If you want to write the big twist and a bummer ending, a shocking ending, you’re going to draw a certain crowd. However, if you write a positive ending rather than shock value, you’re going to draw a much larger audience.

You can mix it up, but once you shock an audience, it may be hard to earn their trust back. Some won’t care, but for those that prefer a happy ending, you may just lose readers. It’s hard to tell.

It’s also up to you.

Think of yourself as a reader and then as a writer. Sure, you have to follow your muse, but you also have to think of your potential audience and your reputation. Once you go down a certain path, it may be difficult to recover.

Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2019 6:29 am

    I’m with you, I read to escape and I love a happy ending. I’m trying – apparently on hiatus right now 😏 – to write a novel that is both realistic and has a happy ending, very much like my life so far. 😊

  2. Fred Rayworth permalink
    June 26, 2019 11:44 pm

    Thank you so much for the comments! I really appreciate it. That’s how I write as well. I’ll leave the negative stuff to others. All the best!

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