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Fiction Groupie Archives

These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in novel (2)

Wednesday
Dec022009

Endings: Happily Ever After or Not So Much...

 

We all want to know, how it ends.
Have you ever read a book that you loved the whole way through, then you reach the ending and the author totally blows it? I've talked a good bit about beginnings and first chapters (here, here, here, here and here.) because that's what hooks your readers/agents/publishers, but endings are just as vital. I don't care how much I loved a book, if the author lets me down at the end--that is the lasting impression, that determines whether or not I go out and buy another book by that author. (Thanks to CKHB, btw, for suggesting this post topic.)
I have to admit, I struggle with endings. I go through this whole process of writing a book then when I get to the end I'm like, uh, hmm, well--even when I know how I want it to wrap up. I enjoy writing the journey much more than the destination. So this is definitely an area I am working on.

First, let's look at some common ending options:
1. Happily Ever After (HEA) or Happy For Now
--This is the most common ending, especially in romance.
--When I pick up a Harlequin, I know that no matter what crap the characters have to go through, they will be together in the end. It's the same with romantic comedy movies--you know when you go see them what the end will be, you're just not sure how they are going to get there. It seems like knowing the ending would ruin the process, but it doesn't--we enjoy the journey.
--And be careful setting up this expectation then pulling the rug out from under your reader. As with any rule, it can be broken, but be careful having a happy lighthearted novel then at the end you decimate every relationship or good thing.
2. Sad Ending
--These are trickier, in my opinion. Some people like to cry with their books (*waves at Oprah*), but you don't want to end sadly with no kind of resolution or lesson.
--Give the reader something to walk away with. In Titanic, it's horrible that sexy Leo dies, I ugly-cried in the theatre, BUT I was left with the sense of the undying power of love and how someone who we meet only briefly can touch our lives forever.
--This kind of ending also works when the only logical place for the story to go is down the sad road. If you're writing a story about the Holocaust, you probably aren't going to be able to wrap it up with balloons and sunshine. (And your readers won't expect you to).
3. The Cliffhanger
--These are only okay if you are planning a series, in my opinion. Nothing with piss me off more than a book ending with no wrap-up and no next book. That will ruin me on an author.
--Even if you are setting up for the next book, make sure that you have some resolution with some of your story threads so that your reader has some sense of satisfaction (along with a desire to know more on the unresolved ones.)
--These can be very effective, as I mentioned in my review yesterday. The cliffhanger is the only thing that's going to get me to buy the next book. I also just finished the first four books of The Vampire Diaries and LJ Smith is great at the cliffhanger. I read all four books in about three days because of those darn cliffhangers.
4. The "Things That Make You Say Hmm" Ending (yeah, I just pulled out that old school reference)
--These endings are more common in literary fiction than genre fiction.
--This ending leaves you with something to think and ponder on. If someone were to ask you what you thought of the book right after finishing it, you'd probably say "I'm not sure yet."
--Sometimes books with these endings provide a profound experience, other times it's just frustrating, so it has to be done artfully.
In my YA, I struggled with the ending, rewriting it at least three times. I started out with HEA, then changed it to a sad ending + cliffhanger, and now it's a happy for now (with the romance thread) and a cliffhanger with the external plot. My adult romance was always a HEA, but it still was difficult to write and make it feel fully satisfying and not rushed.
Alright, so those are some of the options for endings. Tomorrow I will cover what to do and not to do when creating your ending along with some tips of how to come up with the direction you want to go in.
So do you find beginnings or endings harder? Which types of endings do you prefer to write or read? Have you ever read a book that you loved the journey but loathed the ending? How do you feel about cliffhanger endings?

 

**Today's Theme Song**

"It Ends Tonight" - All-American Rejects
(player in sidebar if you'd like a listen)

 

 

Tuesday
Jul212009

For Love of the Bad Boy

I just recently finished reading Motley Crue: The Dirt - Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band . Even though I usually stick to fiction, I picked up the book for a few reasons. One, I'm a big fan of the band. Two, my current WIP's male protagonist is a lead singer in a rock band, so this was helpful research. I'm not going to go into a detailed review. But I'll say that I really enjoyed the book. It was an unapologetic look into the proverbial world of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll." So, if you like rock music, don't mind an r-rated (nc-17?) book, and can handle the overuse of the word "dude" in the Tommy Lee chapters, then I would say go for it.

But in addition to being a fun read, this book also got me to thinking about bad boys. They show up all the time in fiction, especially in romance and YA. It's one of our favorite alpha male types both in books (and for some of us, real life). After reading this true life account of four seriously bad boys, I started to wonder why we're so drawn to them and why certain bad boys are appealing and others appalling.
The Motley members were drug addicts, womanizers, and, at times, criminals. Yet women flocked to them even before they were famous or rich. Therefore, something about them was inherently appealing.
Then there are guys like Wes on the current season of The Bachelorette. He's considered the bad boy of the show. And based on last night's reunion show, he was wildly unpopular with the female viewing audience (including me.)
So what's the difference? Where is the line between uber hot and uber jerk? What traits make a bad boy sexy instead of scary? When writing, how do we create that delicious bad boy that will make our reader not just swoon but fall in love in with the character?
I think the key probably lies in the character's motivation. Your bad boy can't just be bad for the hell of it, just because he thinks it's cool. (Yes, Wes, I'm looking at you.) You have to explore the reasons why he is the way he is with your back story. He also has to have some crack in the armor that the heroine can pry into and heal. Because, otherwise, why are we reading?
Since the Motley Crue guys maintained their appeal (in my mind) even after wildly egregious acts, I'll use them as an example of some appealing types of bad boys. (I'm leaving Mick out because he is not an alpha male.)
The "I've always been pretty" bad boy (Vince Neil, lead singer): This is the bad boy who knows he's hot. Girls have always liked him. Attention has come easily. He can get whomever he wants, which can make things boring for him. It can also lead to going through girls like they're disposable. He's not used to being told no.
Crack: He ain't that confident. Sure, he knows he looks good, but he's not convinced the person underneath the looks is all that great.
Other Examples: Eric in the Sookie Stackhouse books (a personal fave of mine), Keenan in Wicked Lovely, Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life (to pull out an old 90s reference)
What he needs: A heroine that isn't afraid to knock him down off that pedestal and challenge him.

 
The "Up for anything" wild child (Tommy Lee): This guy appears to have no fear or impulse control. Seeks thrills and fun at all times. He's ruled by the Id. Doesn't take anything seriously including silly things like rules, laws, or social mores. Sees relationships as something that would hold him back from thrill-seeking.
Examples: Jules in Erica Orloff's Freudian Slip (who is basically a good-looking version of Howard Stern), Barney on How I Met Your Mother (although his thrill seeking is limited to women)
Crack: He's actually a sucker for long-term relationships. He's so passionate about everything in his life, that when he finds the right girl, he will give himself over completely to love. Tommy Lee turned lovesick both with Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson.
What he needs: Someone that can keep up with him, but is also a calming force. A heroine who incites enough passion in him that he seeks thrills with her instead of separate from her.

 
The Wounded Soul (Nikki Sixx): This is my favorite to write and read about. This guy's motto is "get them before they get me". He's been hurt deeply somewhere along the way, and now has locked away all true feelings from others. He's easily angered and shuts down when anyone gets close. He can be the most formidable of bad boys because he doesn't care enough about himself to avoid danger.
Examples: Julian in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Fantasy Lover, Edward in Twilight, Jace in City of Bones, Wrath in J.R. Ward's Dark Lover, Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing
 
Crack: He feels unworthy of genuine love. Nikki Sixx was abandoned by both his parents early on. So later, when people in his life showed him love, he didn't believe them. He'd push them away before he had a chance to care.
What he needs: A super tough girl that can push through that seemingly impenetrable wall. A woman that will call him out on his crap and not be intimidated by his flashes of anger. A woman that will love him fiercely.
So there's my theory. The only bad boys worth writing are the ones that offer a challenge, but that can ultimately evolve. We don't just want to read about the bad boy being bad, we want to see his character heal and reform so that he can keep the good parts (fun, attitude, touch of danger, daring) while taming the undesirable parts (lying, cheating, illegal behavior, etc.).
So, what's your opinion? Do you like a bad boy character or do you think they're overused? What makes you like one better over the other? Who's your favorite bad boy?