Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The End (Spoiler alert!)

After finally finishing The Lamplighter's Special, my sequel to The Night Watchman Express, I've learned one thing: Endings are hard to do. It is a very difficult, complicated thing to increase suspense and interest  in a group of characters, and arrive at a conclusion that is either happy or sad, in a way that balances the beginning and the middle of the book.

Seriously, I'm just realizing this. You'd think it would be obvious. Miss Writer starts her book, develops a plot, and therefore she must find a satisfactory way to end that book. However, I don't think I'm all alone in having this difficulty. I heard, for example, a lot of people criticize the final book of the Twilight series.  Ditto with the Harry Potter series. (For the  record, I rather like the chapter that begins, "Nineteen Years Later....") Stephen King is well-known for having a hard time with endings; his son, in Heart Shaped Box, seemed to have inherited the tendency.*

There must be some good endings  out  there, though. and by good, I mean well-done, finely executed. Here are some of my favorites:

1. The Shawshank Redemption - The scene of Red walking across the beach to see Andy Dufresne still gives me chills. The credits roll, and I like to imagine what  happened next. Did the men hang out, go to a little Mexican place and have some food and a few "Bohemia style beers?" Did Andy introduce Red to a nice woman who lived nearby? Did they settle down there at Zihuatenejo? I like to think they did.

2. Apollo 13 - That last  line of the  narration is incredible. "I sometimes catch myself looking up at the Moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home. I look up at the Moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?"

3. The Road - I didn't see the movie. The last paragraph of the book, however, describing the beauty of river trout, is pure horror. 

4. Frequency - This movie won't win any lifetime awards, I suppose, but my husband actually stood up and cheered (in our family room, not a theater) at the end.

5. "Reader, I married  him..." But of  course.

What endings  to movies or books (or songs, or poems, or anything) have you enjoyed? Please share them in the comment section, because I'm still working on that ending thing.

*Do go and read Heart Shaped Box, though.  It scared the bejeesus out of me.


Krista McLaughlin said...

I have to say that I love the ending of The Lord of the Rings! Both the movies and the book series. It's such a beautiful story anyway and Tolkien wrote some beautiful lines. At the very end, Sam says to Rosie "Well, I'm back." :)

Hart Johnson said...

Funny-I sort of love endings. I know Stephen King's problems are because he's a pantser, and you just can't write THAT many books as a pantser without mucking up the end at some point. I think people who at least know the ending from the beginning much more regularly nail the end.

One of my more irritating endings is by the same author as one of the better ones: Barbara Kingsolver NAILED her ending in Poisonwood Bible with Leah figuring out who the man with five wives was... beautifully wove through the final note of 'an error in translation' which is the point of the book. But in Prodigal Summer she petered out like nobody's tomorrow.

I'm not a huge fan of 19 years later, because at the same time it is too much and too little. I would have loved it ending with Harry repairing his wand (which was PERFECT)... or I would have liked a nice meaty epilogue, but instead it disarmed fanfiction writers while not being quite satisfying... but then I was writing a lot of fan fiction at the time, so that is where I'm coming from on it.

My hardest part is late middle where I try to come back toward the end--pulling all the loose strands back in... But I find I periodically experience brilliance on last line... though I will never match my second long fan fiction. Last line: So spank me.

Alison DeLuca said...

I never thought of it from the fanfic point of view, although I read some amazing HP stories by fans. One of my favorites was a simple tale of a chess game (Wizard's chess, of course) between Ron and Luna. The last line? Neville say, "Luna's wearing bright red underwear!"

Connie J Jasperson said...

Winding it up well really is hard!

librarygiraffe said...

Generally Stephen King scares me, but I love, love the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The ending makes the movie. I love the sound of Morgan Freeman's voice at the end too. "I hope..."
The end of The Lord of the Rings is one of the few books that has made me cry... simply because I was so sad it was over.
I'm sure there are others, but those are the two endings that stick out to me.