There's no end
to the things you might know, depending how far beyond Zebra you go! {Dr. Seuss}

Friday, July 13, 2012

Anticlimactic Endings

If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.
{Anton Chekhov}
If there’s one thing that bums me out most after reading a great book or series, it’s the anticlimactic ending. I can think of two critically acclaimed series that are hugely popular…but the endings did not meet my expectations. Why? Multiple times the authors alluded to a specific type of excitement: a major confrontation among characters, a cataclysmic event, a most definite slam-bang finish…and then failed to deliver.
Like Mr. Chekhov says in the above quote, if an author mentions more than once something to come, then it should happen at some point. If it’s mentioned only once, then I suppose I can understand; perhaps it was necessary just for the specific conversation. But if mentioned multiple times, readers will pick up on the hint that something extremely important is supposed to occur. So then why doesn’t some form of it happen? What’s the point of hinting at something to come and then not including it in the story? 
It makes me go back and look over my writings. If I hint at or allude to something specific more than once, then I better make sure I keep my promise to the reader by the end!
Have you read a good novel with an anticlimactic ending? How do you think that happens, especially when an author hinted that there would be something more? Does the author forget and then miss those hints in the revisions, or is it just a manipulative literary technique to keep readers guessing and turning pages?
Have a sunshiney weekend, Zigzaggers!!!


Jennifer Shirk said...

I recently read the last book of a YA trilogy and the end wasn't exactly anitclimatic wasn't good. :(
Which was a shame because I really loved the first two books. Very disappointing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I can't think of a recent book, but I've seen plenty of movies that were anticlimactic.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Laura,
Could be a bit of both, but I do know that for myself, if I make mention of something, it usually for a good reason. At some point in editing, I make sure that everything I hinted at is delivered.

I do see how a reader can feel cheated if the writer doesn't make good on promises that are hinted at.

Enjoy your weekend.

Julie Dao said...

Anticlimatic endings are such a letdown! You feel betrayed after spending so much time and investing yourself in the book when the ending just isn't up to par.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I don't mind a bit of misdirection -- being made to think that something is going to happen and then having something else happen instead. But it has to be well done. The unexpected event has to be just as exciting (or more) than what I was expecting ... and there needs to be some hints of it before, even if I only recognize them in hindsight.

One thing that bugs me is having the final "showdown" happen off stage. I can think of one particular book where the male protagonist and the antagonist battled to the death off stage, while the female protagonist was unconscious. This particularly bugged me, because the book was written from two POVs. The author *could* have shown us that scene, but chose not to.

DL Hammons said...

That's one reason why I refuse to pass judgement on a book until the final page. Too many times the ending has fallen flat and not delivered, which for me colors my whole view of the book. :)

Susanne Drazic said...

Yep, I've read a couple of books like that. I've also seen a few movies that had anticlimatic endings, which can be a real bummer. Leaves ya with more questions than answers.
: (

shelly said...

Yes. I once read a blurb to a book. Bought the book. Read it. And was sorely disappointed. The book wasn't anything like the blurb said it would be.


Rachna Chhabria said...

I don't remember a book,though I am sure a few endings must have disappointed me. But, I can remember several movies which had anticlimactic endings.

Laura Marcella said...

Jennifer- The two series I'm talking about were YA series, too. I have to wonder if the author was rushing it to get the books out to keep up with trends and money.

Diane- I have, too.

Joy- Enjoy your weekend, too!

Julie- Absolutely! That's how I feel, too.

Dianne- Misdirection is okay, but the author has to deliver by the end. The unexpected is good as long as it's just as exciting or even better than what the author originally promised.

DL- So true. You never can tell about a book until the end!

Susanne- I agree!

Shelly- That's a bummer. You have to wonder if the author with the blurb even read the book.

Rachna- I've seen movies with anticlimactic endings, too.

Clarissa Draper said...

Oh yes, I've read a few books like that. They're horrible. However, you've given me the motivation to go over my manuscripts so that I don't make the same mistake with my own books.

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Yes often and it's disappointing because it's like the author ran out of steam/ rushed the ending having worked hard on the rest and not tied up the lose ends in a way that really satsifies.

Laura Marcella said...

Clarissa- It's a good thing for every writer to do!

Madeleine- Anticlimactic endings do seem as if the author runs out of steam, or perhaps didn't plan the novel well and chose to rush through it instead of fixing it. Such a shame!