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EVERYBODY DIES

October 27, 2020

           This will be the fourth time I’ve covered endings in one form or the other.

            Subjects have ranged from Endings in 2018, to 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 reason I bring it up this time is the book I recently finished. It was icky bug. Sure, they can be practically synonymous with crappy endings where everybody dies. Just to make sure (and one reason I don’t read e-books), I always peek at the last few pages to see if the main character (MC) survives. While this is usually a good way to tell, sometimes those last few pages, especially with a quick scan and by not actually READING it, can fool you.

            The day I originally wrote this, I’d almost reached the end of the book. The way the author set things up, the gang, including the MC, HAVE to die. I was already pissed. There was about a ten percent chance they might’ve survived, but the way the story went, if they did, it wouldn’t be good. As it turns out, they didn’t. I was pissed, and my review showed it with one star.

            That leads me to the main gist of today’s discussion, which I breached again the last time I wrote about it.

            Motivation.

WHY DO YOU READ?

            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 a 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.

PURE ENTERTAINMENT

            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.

JUST SOMETHING TO DO

            Same as pure entertainment. It can go either way.

NO PARTICULAR GOAL IN MIND

            Same as the other two.

OPEN TO ANYTHING

            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.

ESCAPE FROM REALITY

            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, and especially now in 2020 with our COVID mess. 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.”

            Real life is 2020. Real life right now is stuff like COVID!

            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.

ENFORCE NEGATIVE VIEW OF THE WORLD

            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.

            So, if you want to grovel in your misery, suck it up and see life for what it really is, then I guess “everybody dies” is for you.

SUMMARY

            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.

            Sure, everybody dies in real life. However, what IS the purpose of writing fiction anyway? It’s a chance to escape all of that for a little while. At least to me. Do I mean, nobody dies? Of course not. All I mean is that someone needs to survive. Someone you can invest in and root for needs to survive so there’s a positive payoff, a reason to close the book with a big smile on your face, not a scowl or a tear.

            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 lose readers. It’s hard to tell. Either way, you’re always going to have an audience.

            It’s 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 the trust.

            Happy writing, and I don’t say that lightly!

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