The end isn’t in sight

I’m cross and crotchety today. I feel like I’ve wasted my reading time this week on two books that didn’t end.

Now, I don’t mean they were long, nor that they were dull. They didn’t end because their writers (and their editors and big, commercial publishers in turn) had failed to comprehend the fundamental requirement for a story to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

This concept was dinned into me at primary school – it’s still used in primary schools now (I checked with 10 yo Offspring). Has this story structure become optional in the adult world and no one bothered to tell me?

One was a romance – and I didn’t find out which boy the girl picked. The other was mainly a whodunnit. It was a fabulous read, right up until the pacey denoument when the heroine was going to find out who’d murdered her twin sister – unless they got to her first! – and then I turned the page to find not who dunnit but an epilogue where she’s fairly sure she knows but wasn’t bothered by any sense of danger or even unease.

They were both the first in a series, but writing a series is not an excuse to cheat your reader out of a satisfying read with each book – or is it? Again, did I miss the memo?!

A contract is formed when I pick up a book. If I’m reading a romance, I expect to finish knowing that girl has met boy and are swanning off into the sunset (in a stolen hovercraft is fine, it doesn’t have to be mushy-happy); if it’s a whodunnit, I NEED TO FIND OUT WHODUNNIT. And I’m both disappointed and cross if that doesn’t happen. I expected a story – but I only got half a one.

Their limp endings (followed by excited requests for me to dash out and get the next in the series – um, no) have ensured I’ll never pick up another book by these writers. And that’s a real shame because both were good, competent books and one of them was absolutely cracking right up until it failed to finish.

Am I the only one to get annoyed by endings that don’t end properly? Use the comments to let me know if you hate an uncertain finish, or if you love a mega cliffhanger at the end of a novel.

10 thoughts on “The end isn’t in sight

  1. Yes, yes yes!!!!!!!!!!! So many times I start a short story collection, only to find that those ‘stories’ are actually essays, situations, sketches, not actual stories. A short story has a beginning, a middle and a denoument, full stop. As for the big long novel split into 3 to get more sales – don’t get me started. I’ve written articles on sequels and on endings, but I won’t put the links on here because I know that annoys some people.


    1. Link if you like, Terry! Does it really work as a sales technique? I can understand the theory, but the writer has shown me they don’t know how to end a book – do they really think I’ll take the chance of finding out they don’t know how to end a series either?!


  2. I get very, very cross if a book – or indeed a story – doesn’t have a proper ending. If a writer doesn’t care that much for their readers, why should we care for them? And yes, it may be the publisher at fault, but the writer ought to be shouting out loud that they fought them all the way.

    [I was a bit worried that you were talking about mine, for a moment, because it is implied who done it, rather than stated-for-definite, but actually, that’s not the main thrust of the story, which does have a proper ending. I hope.]


  3. I think a lot of stories are breaking away from the idea that they have to have a beginning, middle and end. One it’s own, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. If someone can come up with their own template and make it work, great.

    I’m more let down by books that remind me of the old 60’s Batman TV show. They start well enough to get you interested, have enough happening to keep you reading, and then suddenly they are over – with no real resolution of anything or with a terrible ending. It just reminds me how the batman TV series waited for the last 3-4 minutes, then suddenly “Biff”, “Pow”, “Bam”, it was over.


    1. I think it boils down to what expectations I have – maybe blurbs need to be more careful what they imply about the book so the reader knows what they’re getting.


  4. Not having a decent ending can be frustrating, but I do think it’s primarily a sales technique for series. That’s by no means an excuse, however, and there are series in which each installment has its own individual story in addition to the all-encompassing series plot.


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