A good ending is important to any book. I feel like a lot of authors have forgotten what that is these days, or maybe I was unlucky to read books with bad endings in a row. So I thought I should write this post to remind myself and other writers of the value of good endings.
In every novel, you will have the main or core conflict and the secondary conflict/s. Usually the secondary conflict/s form or worsen as a result of the core conflict and function as devices that increase pressure on the protagonist or main characters. It doesn’t have to be this way and there are a ton of exceptions. The point is one is more pressing or important than the other, core conflict is what the story revolves around and secondary conflict is the obstacles and challenges along the way.
You have your main character, Bob. Bob is a detective and has super nice family but his relationship with his daughter is a bit shaky because Bob’s history with alcohol abuse (the reader does not know this yet but they sense it when Bob interacts with Mary, his daughter, there is bit of friction there and they are left wondering where it comes from). The other kids get along well with dad, because when dad was hitting the bottle hard and absent they weren’t born yet. Now there is an epic serial killer on the loose, terrorizing the town and for some reason Bob is obsessed with this one case, he doesn’t know why? He had had other cases more gruesome but there is something about this elusive perpetrator who outsmarts him at every turn that drives him mad. Maybe it is because the girls he kills are like Mary, black hair, round face and pale skin. Anyway, he has to catch him, his boss is on his ass, he withdraws into himself and starts drinking again.
The story pretty much revolves around Bob catching the serial killer, that is our core conflict. Before the murders things were pretty much peaceful but once they begun shit went flying everywhere. So in the end, the core conflict is resolved, Bob catches the serial killer in one bout of genius just when we think he is about to lose his kids and maybe his wife and his daughter forever because of his alcohol abuse and how far he had dug himself in. The reader is relieved, all this pressure that had been building is resolved. You know what would be horrible? It is if the story ended right there. Why? There is a lot of secondary conflict that isn’t resolved. Although, the axis the story revolved around is gone there is a lot of mess left behind.
Readers don’t just want to know if the serial killer will be caught. They also want to know if Bob will be okay and find his redemption. Will he kick the bottle for good? Will he learn never to repeat the same mistake again? Is he going to amend his relationship with his daughter and restore his family? Will his wife give him another chance? In a nutshell, readers don’t just want relief, they also want closure. That means tying up all of the secondary conflicts.
How you do that is all up to you. There are many ways. Some authors just hint at the fact that things will be back to normal or some symbolic gesture. That can be enough.
I had to write this, there has been a ton of books that end after the main conflict is resolved and that is not on. That is horrible and quite upsetting.
Even when a book is part of a series there has to be some secondary conflict that gets resolved in one installment. So offering some relief and a little bit of closure.
Thanks for reading.
Now I leave you with a song lyric that may or may not have anything to do with this post:
“I’m happy to pull my veins out and braid a rope,
I don’t need hope to know that you’d die slow.” – Marilyn Manson ‘Slave Only Dreams To Be King’