Monday, October 14, 2013

The Tricky Thing About Endings

Three books I'm psyched we got in the children's section:

1. House of Hades by Rick Riordan
 Do I really need to say anything else about this?
2. Unbreakable by Kami Garcia
Half of the writing team of Beautiful Creatures. Creepy ghosts. Some romance. Wonderful.
3.Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson.
Okay, so we got this one back in. It's a favorite of mine.

I know a lot of people who are happy ending people. They want every book to end with everything neatly wrapped and tied with a bow.

That's fine. I think some books should end that way. Not everything needs to end with a string of deaths and heartache. It would be boring, not to mention very strange if every book did (I imagine a lot of rogue cars jumping curbs, random snipers, and spontaneous rockslides).

But there are books where most of the book pretty much promises death. You read the entire thing on the edge of your seat wondering which character is going die. Someone has to. Maybe our ragtag band of heroes is horrendously outnumbered. Maybe someone starts off the story incurably ill (John Green proves that that can still be surprisingly heart-wrenching). You read the entire thing completely certain that someone is about to die.

And then no one does. At the last second that surprise army comes in, or someone with a magical cure to this previously incurable illness appears and everyone is okay...happy even.

I am usually disappointed... I am also infamous among friends for having no qualms about killing characters off.

Sometimes people are okay. I'm cool with that. I don't want to read books where everyone dies all the time, I'm not that macabre. I do usually like it if the characters bleed a little first (that can be emotional bleeding. I'm not picky). If no one gets hurt what are the stakes?

That's the thing though, the stakes. They need to be high for what's happening to matter. The threat must seem great. Even in books like the teen romances they are up against time. It takes place over a summer or a school year and they only have so long. But if the threat is going to be big enough to matter something must be lost.

I'm never convinced when five main characters go up against an army (with maybe 10 of their closest friends) and no one dies. Often no one is even gravely injured. It doesn't make sense. There should at least be lots of blood. Maybe most of them make it out alive thanks to their superior powers or that last minute help but there's no way that there were no casualties.

Often authors will toss in what I mentally refer to as 'padding characters.' These are the ones whose names we hear a couple times before, maybe they share a joke or two with the main characters. They are almost guaranteed to die. Because you recognize the name you care just enough and the author can say that someone we knew died.

I'm not okay with just padding characters dying. The stakes aren't high enough.

But how many people are really happy with a book (or series) that ends with the main character alone and grieving...or dead? There would be outrage. But at the same time people are still angry when the consequences aren't high enough.

Where's the line? Can we ever be happy with the way it ends?

I would be okay with the main character dead if it made sense. But I also think the story requires the same respect the characters do. To change the flow of the story for the sake of the ending is cheap. And I think it often shows when that happens. The ending doesn't make sense. There is never a time when every reader is going to be happy. I'd rather be devastated but satisfied.

But I'm beginning to think that I might be a little bit bloodthirsty.


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