If there's one thing that annoys me the most when it comes to stories or movies are bad endings. Yes, the writer may have the reader/viewer on the edge of the seat, eagerly anticipating the MC's next move, hoping that they will survive and overcome the obstacles that have been tossed at them from every angle... and then that happens. What is that? 'THAT' is an ending that leaves the reader or viewer unsatisfied.
I love to read and watch movies, and there are several traps that some fall into that I really regret staying to find out the ending (and often I'm actually enjoying the book or movie). These are:
- Saturday Morning Cartoons Ending
This is where everything is tied up in a nice little bow, express delivered to the reader. You can't forget the happy little group laugh where everyone gathers around the campfire singing 'Kumbaya'. For some reason everyone gets what he wants and everyone lives happily ever after, whether the rest of the story leads towards this ending or not.
- The Diplomatic (The Non) Ending
This is where the writer has been racing forward with the tension. The reader's on the edge of the seat, fearing over whether the MC will survive till the ending and don't know what's coming next. The final battle approaches... then... then
The reader is left unsatisfied as the climax of the novel fizzles out and the MC moves on to get the girl/save the town/complete the quest/etc. The reader flips back several pages to see whether they missed something, but no. The necessary tension just dies so that the writer can quickly wrap up the story.
- The Status Quo Ending
In a novel or film, the character starts out somewhere, does some things and hopefully gets to his destination at the end. So, how does everything go back to the way things were before? These endings make the entire novel obsolete because the character doesn't learn any lesson or gain anything from their journey, instead, they return to their lives in the exact position they've always been in, some times even further down the food chain. What's the point of a novel if the character isn't going to grow as the story progresses?
- Wonderful Life Ending
"Oh, how I wish none of this ever happened..." And, tada, the whole story has been a dream. Hey, don't get me wrong. There are several stories out there that have worked the whole psychosis angle where the character has been crazy or the character is in a coma and it's all a part of his mind (there's a couple of movies out there that play this angle and they're superb) and these stories work. But, to turn around to a reader after they've followed a character's struggle, triumphs and disappointments and say that none of that really happened, that's just kicking the reader and making the whole journey seem pointless. Who wants to follow something to find out it purely doesn't exist... what a let down.
- Illogical (Coincidental) Ending
So, the characters have travelled long and hard over the course of the novel. They've faced tough challenges and gotten back up when they've been knocked down. Now, they just have to overcome the last obstacle, but they need the right circumstances or objects to win and... there they are, with no explanation as to how they got there. These endings have the characters being in the right place at the right time with no explanation as to why they're there apart form they need to be to triumph. Things need to have a cause and effect or else they will seem like a cop out, whether it's a character that somehow happens to stumble upon the MC with the right information needed, the character finds a magic weapon that is indestructible and will vanquish the foul beast, or even the army showing up to save the day and leave the MC to wonder what the heck they were even doing going on the journey that could have killed them to begin with.
- Cliffhanger Ending
I know it's tempting to plan for a series, but seriously, readers pick up a book in order to finish a book, not have to wait (possibly an eternity) to find out what happens next. These endings lead up to the main action, perhaps the hero overcomes that obstacle but then something else comes up and... and... and
TO BE CONTINUED
The reader is left waiting until the next story is published to find out whether the hero will live or die, or that crucial piece of information that the hero has just received... what is it? The writer teases the reader so that they will have to get the next book when it's published, but the reader is actually left incomplete and unsatisfied because they've spent so long on a journey just to find out they need to wait 6 months, 12 months, forever to find out what happens next.