Tag Archives: Melinda Hammond

Off-Putting Endings — how not to finish a book?

Inspforget the starsired by Joanna’s recent blog on ways to put a reader off at the start of a book, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a few pet peeves about off-putting endings.

Call it book-ending Joanna’s post 😉

For me, there is nothing more disappointing than settling down with a book, enjoying the story and investing in the plot and characters. You read to the last page…  And then it leaves you flat.

I have to confess to a vested interest here – a book I read recently which turned out to be one of a series.
Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say.

Female climber clinging to the edge.No, only the cliff-hanger ending left so many loose ends in the main romance and the plot that I felt thoroughly let down. I also felt I was being hustled into buying the next.

I didn’t.

Having invested quite heavily in the story so far, I wasn’t prepared to have it happen again.

Solutions to off-putting endings

So, I asked around and came up with a few pet peeves from other Liberta Hivies. They also gave me useful tips for what an author can do about the ending.

Reader satisfaction in endings

Here’s what the lovely Liz Fielding says. I’ve quoted it in full, because she is so experienced that we can all learn from her.

“An ending has to leave the reader satisfied at a minimum. Uplifted and with a happy sigh is what I hope for. Here’s a quote from my Little Book of Writing Romance on the subject.

“Your ending should leave the reader with a sigh of satisfaction, a longing for more. Most of all, the reader should close the book feeling that the hero and heroine have been tested, that they have faced their darkest fears and come shining through.

“They should have grown in stature during the journey they began on page one and deserve their happy ever after.”

I loved the ending of Romancing the Stone. Joan Wilder began the book frightened of her own shadow, but even though she believes she will never see Jesse again, she is now striding out, full of confidence. With or without him, she has won.

This is quite an ending.

I recently read a crime novel, with a female police sergeant in the lead. I was cracking through it until, quite near the end, at that point where the tension is heightened and you’re heading for the big reveal, she did something so stupid, so completely idiotic, something no trained police officer would do, that I stopped believing in her as a character. No, I did not finish the book.

Don’t fall off a cliff

Sophie uses the phrase: “Don’t fall off a cliff.”

It may be apt. How many times have you read a book where the author finishes everything in half a chapter or less? It’s as if she realises she has already written 79K and has a limit of 80K so everything has to be tied up PDQ.

It fails the Liz Fielding test because it’s not satisfying for the reader.

Tie up all the loose ends in your plot endings

key in lock in door

Image by MasterTux from Pixabay

Joanna again :”I read a locked-room mystery a while ago where one of the victims drowned in the locked room but there was no water in there and the body wasn’t wet. It was never explained. Teeth-gnashing for me.

“If it’s part of a series, there can be untied ends but ONLY if they don’t relate to the main plot (crime, romance, whatever) of that particular book.”

Confession time: I’ve done off-putting endings too

I have been guilty of leaving loose ends – not relating directly to the main plot or the romance, but to the characters. It was in one of my early books, written as Melinda Hammond (and yes, I am brave enough to admit which book!).

The heroine’s sister is pregnant in the final chapters. She was a secondary character. And I was so focussed on the romance that I didn’t mention her at the end. Some months after publication, someone wrote and asked me if she had had her baby, and was it a boy or a girl!

I learned a lesson then, that if you write characters real enough to interest your reader, of course they are going to want to know what happened to them.

Think Pride & Prejudice: Austen could easily have ended the book with the marriages of Lizzie and Jane, but she includes a final few paragraphs looking into the future. They describe what happens to the main characters going forward, including Elizabeth’s achieving a reconciliation or sorts between Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh!

And a final tip from Joanna for tying up loose ends:
“It helps to have a list of loose ends that the author keeps as she’s writing. She can tick them off as she resolves them. Without a list, some may get missed by the author. But she can be sure that they will NOT be missed by readers. I covered this in a wider blog on timelines.  Even if an author doesn’t do a timeline as detailed as mine, she DOES need a list of hooks if she doesn’t want to annoy her readers.”

Don’t cheat the reader with your endings

letters spelling out ENDI agree with Joanna here. She says: “Especially important in crime. It’s a pain when the solution to the crime or puzzle or whatever depends on information or a twist that the reader didn’t know about.”

Readers enjoy picking up clues and waiting to see if their suspicions are correct, or not. I love the subtle clues, rather than those that hit you over the head, though! This can mean going back and putting in a clue earlier. For me, nothing is so satisfying when reading a crime novel as to think I have been extra clever and spotted that small detail!

And off-putting endings in Romance, in particular?

Many readers want “a bit of a wallow” and more than “and they lived happily ever after”. Heyer did that a lot (probably because she didn’t want to write love scenes).

Couple With Umbrella KissingI don’t mind if a romance ends with with a kiss. I am happy to believe that everyone lived (reasonably) happily.

However, what if it is a book in a series?  Don’t you want just a few teasers to take you through to the next book?

Joanna, a confirmed wallow-lover says this. “If it’s a series with continuing characters, it’s possible to show h/h of book 1 as minor characters in book 2 . You see their life as a couple there, so a wallow in book 1 may be less necessary.”

So there, Dear Reader,  you have it

A few personal gripes and some great tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of off-putting endings. My thanks for their contributions to Joanna Maitland, Liz Fielding and Sophie Weston, some of the best writers I know!

I am sure you have your own pet hates and we would love to hear them. Plus any helpful tips you might like to pass on!

Sarah

I’m having a reading week…

Sofa days and reading…

I have just finished a book. Writing it, not reading it. It was Hard Work.

Nothing new there. No matter how sparkling the inspiration, how heady the enthusiasm to embark on this particular story, they are always a strain on the imagination, hard on the back and a slog at the keyboard. The reward is that moment of joyful relief when you’ve despatched it into the ether and it becomes your editor’s job to sort out mangled timelines, momentary slips into scatalogical dialogue and missing commas.

I have a busy writing year planned, but I seem to have spent the entire winter saying, “When I’ve finished the book…’

When I’ve finished the book I’ll get up to the V&A and take a look at the  jewellery department. I’ve been there dozens of times but have somehow missed it and I’ve been inspired to visit by the documentary series Secrets of the Museum. Also on the list is the local Arts Society. I’ve been wanting to join for ages but couldn’t fit in another thing until I’d finished the book.

Reading the TBR pile

Continue reading

Strongholds, Sea, Sand. And Swordmakers

Sarah opens up on the tortuous route of the author’s imagination…towards swordmakers

Inspiration

Every author needs it. Something that sparks the imagination and begins the tortuous route that leads to a full novel. It might take months, or even years, but we all have to start somewhere.

For every book.

This is the story of one such route to inspiration

It started with a castle. This castle to be exact. Dunstanburgh, standing proud on a windy, sea-battered promontory on the Northumberland coast.

Dunstanburgh Castle and rolling waves

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A Dog : A Writer’s Best Friend?

The Dog in Fiction

Dogs are very popular with writers. Think of fictitious ones like Heyer’s Italian Greyhound, Tina, in The Grand Sophy, Bulls Eye the fighting dog belonging to Bill Sykes in Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Timmy, the fifth member of Blyton’s Famous Five. Even Conan Doyle’s “gigantic hound”. We love them all.

image of Italian greyhound but not Heyer's Tina

Not quite Heyer’s Tina

The Dog in Sarah’s Life — Willow

Many writers have dogs of their own (some, like Liberta’s very own Sophie, have cats, but that, as they say, is another story). I must hold up my hand. I have a dog.

Sarah Mallory and her dog Willow

Sarah with her faithful friend

First things first, let’s get something straight. Willow is a dog. Yes, yes, I hear you say, we can see that.

He is a male dog. He looks so elegant, even pretty, and being called Willow, it is no wonder that many people think he is a girl.

We adopted Willow as a rescue dog when he was just over three years old. We thought it would be better to keep his name than change it to something more, er, butch, such as Bouncer or Max.

Adopting Willow was one of those serendipity moments that happen, sometimes. Continue reading

Romantic Series: Guest Blog by Sarah Mallory

Sarah Mallory guest blogs on romantic series

Sarah Mallory

Today our guest blogger is multi-award-winning historical author Sarah Mallory who has more than 40 books under her belt, under various writing names including Melinda Hammond.

Although Sarah was born in the West Country, she now lives on the romantic Yorkshire moors, within a stone’s throw of Brontë country which is, she says, a constant source of inspiration. She is also inspired by history, an abiding love, and the Hive can vouch for her wide knowledge of the Regency and other periods. Get her into a corner (with a glass of something) and the discussion flows wonderfully.

At the request of the Hive, Sarah is going to tell us about her experience of writing historical romantic novels in a series. These days, it’s the received wisdom that readers want series books. So a guide from an award-winning author sounds just the ticket. Over to Sarah . . .

Romantic Series : The Infamous Arrandales

After two years and many thousands of words, I have finished the last book in The Infamous Arrandales series. The Outcast’s Redemption will be published in July. Hurrah! Continue reading