I’m just going to say it. Authors who don’t know how to deliver a satisfying ending to a series shouldn’t write them.
Note: I did not say a happy ending. Beloved characters can die. Everyone can be blown up in a massive, world ending nuclear explosion. I just want whatever finale I’m reading to deliver on the promises made in the earlier books in the series.
I’m sure writing any book, particularly a trilogy, is harder than it looks. Still, there are some simple rules that should be obvious (but apparently aren’t) that every series-writer should follow.
Here is your obligatory:
(I’m not going to give away the endings to books that came out this past week. But I may mention major plot points from books that have been out a year or more.)
You Need an Idea Sustainable Beyond One Book
(Not just one great book idea that you don’t know how to end.)
Has anyone else noticed this? How the first book in a series will be SO great that you run out and tell all your friends they have to read it right now. You wait an agonizing year for the next one to come out. It does. You read it in a day…but it’s not that good. Still, you hold out hope for the last installment (or just the next installment), hoping that the author will redeem him/herself and make you remember why you fell in love with that first book. But it doesn’t happen. You close the cover of the last (boring, meandering) book *ahem* Allegiant *ahem, ahem* and think The first book would have been a great stand-alone. Too bad it wasn’t.
Maybe the secret is giving authors more time to write their series. The Outlander books have been coming out for a few decades now. I think the same is true for the Game of Thrones books, right? And I know by the end of the Harry Potter series, we had to wait two interminable years between releases instead of one. But maybe, even though the wait is painful, it’s key?
Or maybe it’s just that authors and/or editors need to spend a lot more time outlining sequels, planning out the end before they’ve even started.
What do you think it is?
Characters Can Die But if You’re Going to Kill Them Off, Do it Right!
I can think of a ton of great books with meaningful deaths. The death in Code Name Verity. Rue’s death in The Hunger Games. Both surprise, plot-twist deaths in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. They all have something in common, these deaths: you cared about the character and got to mourn his/her death without the book becoming so depressing that you wished you hadn’t read it.
Deaths like Prim’s in Mockingjay (we didn’t get a change to mourn her as readers, and neither did Katniss because she was too freaking damaged by all the crap that happened by that point) or Tibby’s in Sisterhood Everlasting (the most depressing reunion book ever, it was a 500 page funeral, I swear) don’t work. And they just irritate readers.
If You Start a Romance, Deliver One
I am all for the idea that people can change their minds and break up. But when a book series starts out with a great romance, it needs to continue with a great romance (see: Twilight FTW!) or a heart-wrenching death (see: The Fault in Our Stars).
But romances that just fizzle as the series go on? Lame! (See: Allegiant, again!, The Chemical Garden trilogy, the Legend trilogy)
You just want to throw the book across the room when that happens, am I right?
If You Write a Mystery, Solve It. Don’t Leave Readers with Tons of Unanswered Questions
There is a BIG difference between an open ending (not tying up every single plot thread) and just not answering big series questions.
The book that got me thinking of this whole post (The Retribution of Mara Dyer) left me with HUGE, UNANSWERED questions. After, I might add, an extra year of waiting until the final book in the trilogy came out. So. Not. Cool.
Other offenders of this rule: Lost (the TV show–not a book, but still a series)…and, I’m blanking. But I know there are more.
So what do you think? Any other rules to add? Any series you felt broke these rules that I didn’t mention? Vent your pent up feelings in the comments below and tell us which series ending made you sad/mad/everything in between.
WRITTEN BY JENNY
Jenny’s Current Obsessions: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, pictures of baby animals, the word emulsify, finding the perfect dress that makes her look skinnier than she is, cake, Sauvignon Blanc, sun-dried tomato pesto, and making a dent in her TBR list.