On The Perfect Ending

There are some writers who simply do not know when to stop. The great Polish novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote a novel that has been widely loved but also universally recognized to have had a bad ending. The author, somehow, wrote a great novel but lost the plot and forgot where he was going. This is not as unusual a fate as it may first appear. I once read a series of romantic novels that were being adapted into a miniseries and found that the novels of that series nearly universally had the same flaw in that there were marriages and then a third of the novel to go before the people who were married fell in love, because of the structural problems of the romantic plots to begin that forced people together who didn’t really love each other because of “compromising incidents.”

Even so, there are definitely novels that have perfect endings. Before I discuss some of those examples, I would like to discuss what I consider to be a perfect ending. Every book has an end-goal in mind. You write to accomplish some task or tell a particular story, and you should be able to finish that novel when you finish that task. When I am reading a book, I know that I am at a perfect ending when I have a particular question in mind and that question is immediately answered as the book ends, and then the work is complete, even if it leaves room for a sequel. There is nothing inherently bad about endings that leave room for something to happen afterwards, although the author may simply not choose to take things in that direction.

I was reminded of this subject this evening as I was eating dinner and finishing a book that had been loaned to me by a friend at church. I was at the beginning of the last chapter of the book, ten pages before the end or so, and I had one question in my mind about how something was going to happen. I knew that something like that should happen and that the two characters involved were simply not going to be able to communicate things with each other to resolve the situation. So I knew that someone else would have to bring the matter into the light so that it could be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction (including the reader). And, much to my pleasure, exactly what needed to happen happened in such a way that the ending was immensely satisfying. There is genuine pleasure in that.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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