You did it. You've written hundreds of pages. You've plotted and planned and twisted the lives of your characters to the point where there is no place left to go except
Now what? How do you craft an ending that will leave the reader feeling satisfied, not staring at the final page in puzzlement and saying, "Huh?"
I've been thinking about endings lately, ever since the final Harry Potter film appeared in theaters.
This film is the eighth - and last - of the Harry Potter films and, as endings go, it was OK.
Don't get me wrong. It's a good movie. The ending of the film, although superficially the same, is just not as satisfying as it is in the book.
But why should it be? The book had time to explain everything and, by the time we get to Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort, we know everything that Harry has been trying to figure out since the beginning of Book One. Harry knows, too, and it is this knowledge that gives him an edge in his confrontation with his older, more powerful nemesis. We understand the magical effect of Lily's sacrifice and the intricacies of wand lore; we know the truth about Harry, and what Dumbledore has been grooming Harry for through all these years. We've even learned Snape's motivation, and figured out why Neville - of all people! - found himself sorted into Gryffindor. The loose ends have all been neatly crocheted into the tapestry, with none left flapping in the wind.
But there's more to the story than complicated plots and wizardry, memorable characters and fascinating creatures, the thing that makes this series more than just another ho-hum good guys vs. bad guys. That something else is best expressed during the final confrontation, when Harry urges Voldemort to, "Think, and try for some remorse."
What? Voldemort murdered Harry's parents. He has caused the deaths of Dumbledore and many of Harry's friends, not to mention trying to kill Harry throughout all seven books. This is the point in the story when Harry should just slaughter him. But Harry doesn't. Not without giving him a chance to repent. Voldemort, of course, villain that he is, rejects repentance as an option, but the fact that it was offered makes for a satisfying ending.
And I guess that's the hard part about finishing a book. It needs that final finishing touch that pulls it all together, not just with logic but with that next best step beyond, the one that takes it to a higher level. Do you agree?
How do you handle endings in your own books?