Please welcome Cara Bristol back to the blog. Today Cara is talking about book endings.
Letting readers bask in the afterglow…
By Cara Bristol
Imagine enjoying a moving, thrilling sexual encounter with someone you love, and then two seconds after your partner comes, he pulls out, grabs his pants and dashes out the door. “It was great. Thanks, Babe.” With a wink and smile, he disappears, never to be seen again.
Wouldn’t it kind of spoil the moment? Forget the moment, wouldn’t it cast a pall on the relationship?
Yet some romance novels end with that way, robbing the reader of warm and fuzzies after an intense, emotional experience. The endings are too abrupt. End of story, end of final chapter.
We know the hero is going to get the girl. It’s a foregone conclusion. The couple might live Happily For Now, rather than Happily Ever After, but they still come together.
So what makes for a good ending isn’t WHAT happens but HOW it happens and how long it takes to happen. In romance, perhaps more so than in any other genre, readers identify with the characters. We laugh, we cry, we worry (we get horny) right along with the heroine and live vicariously through her to love and lust after the hero.
But until the end, all is not rosy for the couple. They have conflicts, experience despair, may even break up. We, as emotionally-invested readers, suffer with them.
So when a story ends – BAM! — with the resolution of the plot, it feels too abrupt. We’ve been cheated out of the post story afterglow that leaves us feeling satisfied.
In Imaginary Land off the page, the characters go on to live happily ever after, but readers can’t. Our emotional journey ends with the book.
What I try to do as an author is to let my characters be happy for a while AFTER the plot has been resolved. As a practical matter, that means ending the story – having the characters reunite — in the middle of the final chapter and then bask in their togetherness to the end. If my readers have struggled with my characters, I want there to be payoff for them too.
One of the WORST romance endings I’ve encountered occurred in one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve ever read. It was a historical romance in which an emotionally damaged young woman goes to work as secretary for a physically scarred man. I cried throughout the entire novel.
And then it ended. Maybe not a BAM, but a bam. Happily, yes, but the resolution wasn’t quite long enough for the amount of angst I had suffered. But I would have been okay if author hadn’t stabbed me in the heart and twisted the knife.
She included an epilogue.
Fast forward about 50 years. The heroine attends the hero’s funeral!
NOOOOOO! After everything the hero and heroine went through – after everything I went through – for the hero to die even 50 years later – left me feeling awful. I do not want to be sad after I finish a romance novel. That’s not why I read them.
What kinds of endings do you like to see or not see in a romance?
Cara Bristol is the author of Intimate Submission, Secret Desires, Unexpected Consequences (Rod and Cane Society Book 1), False Pretenses (Rod and Cane Society Book 2), A Scent of Longing and Reckless In Moonlight. Her seventh erotic romance, Destiny’s Chance was contracted by Loose Id and she is busy at work on her third Rod and Cane story. The title is a secret.
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