I feel like I’ve been cheated. I just spent 3 days reading a book, and when I finished it I was left thinking, that’s it?
The beginning intrigued me, made me want to know more about the main characters. The words were so beautifully put together that the sentences flowed into each other. For the first hundred pages or so I kept thinking, I want to write like this. The author broke conventions and it added to the tone and pace of the story. He used more adjectives and adverbs in one page than some authors use in their entire novel. Many sentences were not only compound and/or complex, but run-on. And I loved it—for a while.
The middle of the book continued in the same fascinating manner as the beginning, and eventually my brain got tired of wading through the flowery exposition. I was hooked on the characters, involved in the plot, and I wanted to find out what happened. So I started skimming the long, descriptive passages to get to the good stuff.
Somewhere around page 570, the climax arrived. It lasted about 20 pages and was pretty good, but there were still lots of unanswered questions in my mind. Eight pages later the book was done. And I was mad.
A story arc consists of exposition, conflict, climax, falling action, and the denouement (resolution). The denouement is where the loose ends get tied together and the reader is left satisfied that the story ended the way it should. The story I read did not do that in a believable way.
Instead of everyone getting their lives together after six hundred pages of never-ending conflict, a very minor character from one scene early in the book wrote out a check to pay for all the other characters to buy motor homes and travel around the country spreading a message of hope that would save the world. No one resolved their own problems; they got bailed out. The last 8 pages told what happened to all the characters, including one so minor I had to go back to the beginning to figure out who he was, and I didn’t believe any of it.
How can conflict covering six hundred pages be satisfactorily resolved, and 10 people’s lives be forever changed, in 8 pages? Although the climax is the high point that all the rising action leads to, there should be some falling action to bring the plot to a resolution that rounds out and concludes the story. Failing to provide a reasonable, satisfying ending can leave readers wishing they’d not wasted their time on the book.
Do you ever feel let down by the way a story ends? How do you deal with it—write the author, throw the book in the trash, or what?