Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unpredictable Endings

Ann C. Crispin of Writer Beware posted a fantastic article today titled "How to Satisfy Your Reader Without Being Predictable."  It's about the need for unpredictable endings in genre fiction while still satisfying the reader's expectations.  She uses The Return of the King as an example of genre fiction which could have had a perfectly predictable and satisfying ending that was made better - and more satisfying - with its unpredictable twist.  (Think Mount Doom and a crazed Gollum!) 

I thought Ms. Crispin was spot on in her views, which made me ask - what other great historical or fantasy fiction has an unpredictable yet satisfying ending?  During my drive home tonight, the ending of Stephen King's The Gunslinger jumped to mind.  In fact, King is an absolute master of the unpredictable yet satisfying ending.  The Stand and The Dark Tower are two other great examples. 

Read Ms. Crispin's post and then let me know, what's your favorite example of an unpredictable yet satisfying ending?

Did you think Frodo would be the one to destroy Sauron's Ring?


Richard Campbell said...

Personally, I like the ending of Watchmen (graphic novel) (or, the recent movie)

At the risk of spoilers (and since the graphic novel collection came out in 1987, I think the statute of limitations has run out):

Our heroes discover the villain's evil plan (killing millions, with a hoped-for goal of uniting the world against a common enemy), but too late to stop him. Instead, they cover up the villain's part in the deaths to keep the common enemy goal going.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Ms. Crispin's post also struck me as quite on-the-mark. It's very helpful to see analyses like these, especially with stories that are well-known and accessible.

Richard Campbell's suggestion of Watchmen is very good, and even though the movie and graphic novel have different endings, they both have what he said in common. The good guys don't really win, but humanity prevails, and that seeming contradiction is always unpredicted and interesting.

Since we're being a bit spoilery here, I'll talk about a SF novel I quite enjoyed, FEED by Mira Grant. Toward the end, Grant kills the MC. Given that the story is told in first person, this is quite jarring. But the second-biggest character, her brother, takes over and wraps things up. He goes through emotional devastation but thwarts the giant conspiracy, and again, it's that mix of emotions that works.

Throughout that whole post, though, I kept thinking of A GAME OF THRONES, which makes sense given its omnipresence this year.

Joseph Finley said...

Watchmen is a great example. And so is A Game of Thrones. No one could call that ending predictable!