Friday, February 06, 2009

The End

What makes a satisfying resolution to a romance novel? This has been on my mind a lot lately. My current WIP is a series, 5 books, where the overriding suspense arc won’t be completely put to bed until book number 5.
The bad guy in the current book won’t get his ending until book number 3, and while I will answer some of the suspense questions I raise in the book, I won’t be answering all of them.
The one thing I will resolve is the romance, my hero and heroine will be together and committed to each other by the end of the story.
This is more and more common with the influx of single title series books within the romance genre, but coming up with an ending that the reader finds satisfying, while still leaving a lot of questions unanswered, is really, really tricky.

It’s a fine line between getting the reader excited to buy the next book, and frustrating them so much that they throw the book against the wall.

I’m lucky because I have a critique group who will tell me whether it works or not.

And not all of the characters I introduce in the story will have a happy ending. A couple of them will have a miserable ending, again, something that will frustrate some readers.

I’m thinking of the books I’ve read where the author leaves a lot of open questions at the end of each story. The Brotherhood books to a degree, where the big bad continues to wreak havoc, and certainly the Anita Blake books, where the romance was left unresolved at the end of most of the books.

And I think like most things when it comes to writing, it’s all in how well, or not well, it’s written.


Maureen McGowan said...

It's a tricky balance, for sure.

I think with the romance/suspense combo in a long series with an overarching story, it's important to have a satisfactory ending to one romance plot, and one suspense plot at the end of each book -- even if some issues are left open. And even if some characters don't have happy endings.

Typing this... I think I see a flaw in the last book I wrote in this regard... but hopefully not too big of one.

Kimber Chin said...

I don't like it when everything is wrapped up neatly in the end. That feels so forced. (Like magically, there are no single people left in the world)

I DO love a solid commitment between the hero and heroine (at least for a romance).

That doesn't mean everyone else has to be happy though.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I am so tired I am going to barely make sense right now. But I think it's all about that romance and the resolution of the inner conflict for that hero. Think about all the books in series that we love - going back to Elizabeth Lowell -- okay that I love -- the book's are not so much what will be resolved, though we know something will and it will be great -- it's about the next hero and his book. For example - we are all drooling about Rehvenge's book, not because of the ongoing world situation - but because he had ridiculous sex with a woman in scorpian venom. We're fired up about him. Everyone else in the book can be crying at the end but we need that hero - totally hyped up from previous books - to be hap hap happy. Utterly resolved - do that and your book ends just fine.

Maureen McGowan said...

Tired or not... I think you've got it right re the romance plot, Molly. The internal crap for the main characters better be resolved by the end, if the book has romance on the spine.

And I think re the suspense plot or other overarching story line... as long as some bad guy met justice by the end, or got foiled, or some piece of the overall story got solved, I think readers can still be happy even though "the big overarching problem/mystery" is still out there.

I remember hearing a talk about some series of books that readers hated because it was a serial killer story... and the serial killer didn't get killed at the end of book one. He was still out there and free, (even though heroine was out of immediate danger) so readers felt unsatisfied and ripped off (because hero's external goal was capture serial killer, and he didn't) Wish I could remember the books they were talking about... It might have been Jennifer Crusie... or even Donald Maass giving the talk... but they were talking about someone else's books...

Still, not all readers are the same... What makes one person excited about the next book, might make another upset and feeling left hanging. Fine line.

Also... I think styles change. Readers are getting more used to overarching story lines based on many TV series that use this technique. Gone are the days when most dramas (and even comedies) were tied up neatly in 30 or 60 minute segments. So I think more readers are now willing (and possibly excited) to read that kind of thing in books, too. At least that's what I want to believe right now. :-)

Diana Peterfreund said...

Sinead, this is totally off topic, but have you seen the ALIEN documentary? I'm watching it now and it rocks!

Sinead M said...

Diana, have not seen the doc, but really, really would love to.
Who did it?

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