No, this post isn’t about someone making a New Year’s resolution and then giving up on that resolution less than halfway through the year. Rather, I am talking about one of the most important parts of writing: the ending.
Ever since learning about creative writing in fourth grade, I was hooked; I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. And since then, 10-year-old to present me have learned there are four points of the structure of a story. These four points are:
- exposition—the introduction; the reader learns about the character/characters, the setting, etc.
- conflict—the problem that a character/characters have to resolve is introduced
- climax—the highest point of tension in the story; the character/characters overcome obstacles in his/her/their way
- resolution—the climax has been solved or overcome; the closing of the story
Once you have those basic elements down, it is easy to write a story. However, many writers try to tweak his or her own writing style to be unique and get noticed by readers. (I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy.) This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but I have noticed a trend in the past few years where authors and writers completely leave out a resolution in a story. And that folks, definitely grinds my gears.
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. If I could earn a living just by sitting and reading a book all day long, I would do it. But since that is not an option, I read in my free time instead. I will read almost anything. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, historical fiction, maybe some non-fiction books, memoirs, you name it — I will let my eyes give it a once over.
So when Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy was recommended to me, I bought a copy of her first book. And I could not put it down. I am now into the third book of the trilogy and cannot wait to find out what happens. That being said, thus far, two-thirds of the series has ended abruptly. So abruptly, it may turn me off from reading any more works by Roth. If you’re asking why, then you haven’t been reading this post closely.
Without me giving away too much, Roth has ended both Divergent and Insurgent with a lead up to what the first chapter of the next book will be about. As I have finished Insurgent more recently, I will share the last sentence of the book — sans spoilers. Roth finishes her second book with a single, loaded sentence: “And that’s when the shouting begins” (Roth, 314).
Now, that doesn’t give away too much, does it? But that’s it; there isn’t any more. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. While Roth’s writing style throughout her books keeps me on the edge of my seat, her endings aren’t to my liking not as a writer, but as a reader. There is no resolution; the climax has not been resolved. But yet, this pseudo-resolution writing style has become popular among up-and-coming authors in recent years.
Katniss Everdeen’s creator, Suzanne Collins, also uses the same pseudo-resolution in her Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven’t read nor seen any of The Hunger Games books or films, be wary while reading this paragraph. The ending of the first book literally has Peeta walking away from Katniss once he learns her love for him was all an act for the two of them to survive. That’s it.
This style was even somewhat shown in the “Catching Fire” movie. Spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t read the book nor seen the film. (But the last book has been out since 2010, so really I’m not giving anything away that isn’t already published.) In “Catching Fire,” Katniss awakes in a hospital-like sterile room. Gale is there to see her, and briefly informs her that District 12 is gone. The camera then pans to Katniss when every emotion from anguish to rage appear on her face. Fade to black.
No resolution in the book, no resolution in the movie. So why does this bother me so much, you may ask. When I wrote my first short story, I of course had my dad read it for errors. When I ended the story in a similar way, my dad told me I can’t do that. Stories have to have a proper ending. Since then, I have had that thought engrained in my brain. Not only my dad, but every professor I had while I was studying journalism also informed me that every piece of writing — not just stories — needs a resolution. This lack-of-a-resolution writing also bothers me because it seems there isn’t any closing for not only the characters in the story, but also for the reader. I understand that both Collins and Roth want to get readers to pick up the next book and continue the series, but the ending of the books leave a sour taste in my mouth.
Even famed Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, has a resolution in all of the books in the series — although Harry’s story continues on into another book. At the end of each book, Harry has fought He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in some way, learns more about his parents’ past and what his future holds. Smoke billows from the Hogwarts Express signaling all students, including Harry, must return home for the summer. With seven books in the series, it is clear that Harry’s journey isn’t over at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone. Readers know this because the book has a proper ending.
I could spend days upon days holed up reading a good book. If a story has grabbed my attention, I cannot focus on much else. When I reach the ending though, I cannot wait to pick up the next installment. I just hope the shouting doesn’t begin.
Roth, Veronica. Insurgent. EPub Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. eBook.