Tag Archives: Sophie Weston

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!


Springing into Summer, Today, Tomorrow, One Day Soon?

Today the Libertà hive are in celebratory mood, springing towards summer by relaunching our collection of novellas, Beach Hut Surprise.

In spring, says the poet, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. (Actually it was Tennyson in Locksley Hall, written when he was twenty-five and presumably knew what he was talking about. At least in the Young Man Department anyway.)

This spring, after a grim year of Covid 19 and at least three lockdowns, most of us, even the least romantic, are starting to think of Getting Out A Bit. It gives us hope. Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 12 conclusion

CHRISTMAS MYSTERY by Sophie Weston: EPISODE 12 Conclusion
Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

The nurse lived a good way out and insisted on taking them in for a drink to celebrate the New Year. As it turned out, this included a substantial ham sandwich which Patrick snarfed down like a starving wolf.

“Wonderful,” he said. “Busy day. First chance to eat.”

The nurse beamed and waved them off with a care package of goodies from the meal she was preparing to see in the New Year.

In the car on the way back, Liv relaxed, even when Patrick said, “Why didn’t you tell me to drive you to the Food Bank?”

She was surprised. “You were completely immersed in your research. I didn’t want to break your concentration.”

“Hrrmph.” Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 12 Part 1

CHRISTMAS MYSTERY by Sophie Weston: EPISODE 12 Part 1
Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

blue and silver christmas tree

The nurse was instantly alert. “Does he want to hurt you?”

“I don’t know,” said Liv. “And I don’t know why he’s following me. I don’t even know who he is.”

Except that the daring, athletic cyclist was definitely not Francis. That was a relief in one way. But only a small way. She could feel the hamster wheel of panic start up again. She breathed carefully.

I can deal with this. I CAN DEAL WITH THIS. 

But she felt as if her bones had turned to netting and her stomach cramped.

The nurse stayed cool and stuck to the important stuff. “He’s followed you before?” Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 11

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

Kings Road Christmas Lights

“No,” said Liv.

She went on saying it while Patrick Fell delivered a lecture from the podium on why this was absolutely the best—no, the only—solution. In the end, she was so cold that she said in desperation, “Can we discuss this in your car? I’m freezing.”

He harrumphed a bit, but agreed, though he made her put her mask on and opened all the car windows. “If this takes too long, I shall have to lower the top,” he warned her. “With current virus restrictions, it behoves people like us to be responsible.”

Liv swung round to look at him in disbelief. “Who the hell says behoves in the twenty-first century?”

“It’s a nice economical word and it says what I mean. Now, your place or mine?” Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 10

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

arrangement of roses tinted the wrong colours

Liv tried to sleep that night. She really tried. But her head was buzzing with half-formed ideas, questions, splinters of memory that she couldn’t get rid of.

At 2.13 a.m., she got up and made tea. She huddled into the rented couch in the rented room and remembered the big, uncomfortable chairs in Francis’s beloved drawing room That Night.

Even the professional florist’s arrangement had been too big. Come to think of it, Liv had never ordered it. Francis must have sent it specially. Set dressing for a supposedly impromptu celebration after the board meeting at Temple Blake Rossignol. Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 9

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

Liv finally agreed to meet Patrick Fell on the day London and the South East went into the new Tier 4 lockdown. It was a Sunday.

“Two people can meet in the open air,” said Patrick, when she pointed that out. “Pick your park.”

She opted for Battersea, by the bandstand. He was there before her, reading a map display.

“Let’s walk,” he said. And, as they started down an overgrown path, “Have you kept up your notebook?” Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 8

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

Mr Christoferou had been as good as his word. Liv had to ring the bell at the guest house. When he opened the door to her, he said at once, “I get your luggage.”

“I don’t want to leave yet,” she said, alarmed.

“No, no. Not until next week. I know. We locked all your things away while you were out, as I said.”

“Er, thank you.”

He brought them to her room, in a businesslike stackable container. As soon as he’d gone, she opened her laptop and searched the old email in-box for Patrick Fell’s message with his mobile number. There were nearly two hundred messages waiting. Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 7

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

blue ball on Christmas tree branch

Liv was silent as they walked back. Patrick Fell didn’t seem to notice. He talked all the time, but it was more like thinking aloud than conversation. She caught phrases: borrow a car, sequence of events, intruders, enemy. But he neither asked nor seemed to expect her to respond.

The entrance of the multi-storey car park held a tall Christmas tree, hung with multi-coloured lights that blinked on and off. Liv thought it looked gallant but forlorn among the discarded shopping trolleys. Patrick ignored it and the sign to the  lifts. He took the stairs, still talking.

Liv followed, her thoughts tumbling over each other. Could she trust him? Rosa trusted him but Rosa wasn’t being followed by persons unknown. Did she know him really well? Better than Liv did, anyway?

Above all, why did he take this case? They hadn’t discussed payment. OK, Liv had been anxious, off-balance, not thinking straight. But surely Patrick should have told her his terms of business? Wasn’t that the first thing that a bona fide private detective would have done? Now she thought about it, it felt all wrong. Continue reading

Sophie’s Christmas Mystery Serial Episode 6

Missed the start? Click here to read from episode 1

a man's piercing blue eye

“Good morning,” said Patrick Fell, standing on the doorstep at a respectful distance. He was wearing a snazzy black and white checkerboard mask. You could still see the charming smile in his eyes, currently bent on a visibly melting Mrs Christoforou. “I am expected, I understand. About a car?”

Mr Christoforou, so far from melting, was reverberating slightly. He reminded Liv of a five foot eight thistle with a spine of steel. He said, “Name?”

“Patrick Fell.”

They eyeballed each other, muscular man in jeans and work shirt with sleeves rolled up versus man in designer casual and cashmere coat. Patrick Fell’s charm took on a faint hint of challenge. Continue reading