June 30th, 2006
Abrupt Endings and how to piss off this reader

I mentioned that I recently purchased an anthology that I was looking forward to reading. I’m going to preface this by saying that the comments that follow have absolutely NOTHING to do with any of the authors’ writing ability. They were all in fact very good writers. My problem stems from choices that were made.

Now I’ve heard readers talk about abrupt endings and snippets from books, when referring to some of Laurell K. Hamilton’s novellas, but I’d never encountered this problem until this anthology. I must say that by the second story I came very close to returning the book. I’m glad I didn’t because the next two stories I read were complete, even if they left a few threads dangling.

I don’t mind short novellas as long as the writer wraps the story up. They don’t even have to have the traditional HEA, although I’d appreciate it if they’d hint at it. That is not my problem here. My problem stems from reading a story and having it end so abruptly that I have to page ahead and back, trying to figure out if I’ve somehow missed something. Once I’ve figured out that I haven’t, then I attempt to hunt down the rest of the book, only to realize there isn’t anymore.

Now I’m all for teasing the reader with a sequel, but when a story ends so abruptly that you think chapters are missing, then there’s a problem. By the end of the second story, I was ready to throw my ebook reader across the room. I started thinking that maybe the whole anthology had been set up to tease readers about longer books, which is something I personally HATE. If you’re writing a novella, then write a novella. Don’t leave the reader hanging in confusion. If I hadn’t already read the one author and loved her work, I’d probably never pick up another book by her. As it is, I doubt I pick up another book from the second author who did the same thing in the anthology.

What peeves you off as a reader? And I’m not talking about too stupid to live heroines, that’s too easy. What Really makes you put a book down never to be picked up again?

28 comments to “Abrupt Endings and how to piss off this reader”

  1. I hate it when a writer uses the same word over and over and over again.

    Did you see Bam’s review of LKH’s Danse Macabre? One of the things Bam complained about was that LKH uses the word Ardeur dozens of times. I hate that–I’m not anal, but I will notice it, just the way I’ll notice every single spelling error and grammatical mistake.

    Breaking the rules of your world is another thing. And when the author cheats to get a neat and tidy ending–come September, it may get me my first flame attack.

    I think you can call me Ranty McRant today.

  2. I also hate abrupt endings. Even if there’s suppossed to be a sequel, at least I expect the main conflict in that story to be solved.

    I also dislike forced sex scenes between hero and heroine. They spend half of the story hating each other, being snarky, and suddenly they are in bed all over each other. Unless I can feel the sexual tension between them, even when they’re bickering, I’m not swallowing the scene.

    Since I’m on a roll here, let me add, lots of talking during a sex scene. Excuse me? Do you discuss your problems while you’re having sex?

    His lips fasten on her breast and sucked.
    “Hon, the principal called today,” she said and then bit her lips.
    “What did she want?” He kept lavishing his attention on her nipple.
    “Oh yes baby.” She moaned louder. “Our son failed Math again.”

    C’mon! And what’s with men talking while their tongues are inside her? How can they do it? Are they ventriloquists?

    Absolutely no chemistry between the hero and the heroine turns me off from a story.

  3. There are certain things I’m squeamish about, but generally I can spot those and just never pick up the book to begin with. Two books I recently abandoned I realize now both had the same root problem; I never connected with or cared about the characters. If I don’t care about them, why should I care what happens to them?

  4. Abrupt, unfinished endings make me nuts. I ran into this with Morgan Llywelyn’s book 1972. The final scene featured the Bloody Sunday events in Northern Ireland, followed by the hero racing home and snatching his grandfather’s rifle off the wall. That’s it. I wanted to scream and toss the book across the room. So much tension and build up, but no, you’ve got to wait for the final book in the series, a good year to two years away. I love Llywelyn’s work, devoured every other books she’s read so I know I will read the finisher of the series when it finally hits the stands (I can so understand how the Harry Potter addicts feel waiting for the next installment) but I felt pretty cheated and played with there. Do not toy with the reader.

  5. Abrupt or open-ended endings will get me too. Also, and don’t get me wrong on this one because I use the word too, but the “F” word thrown in every other sentence just for the shock value will turn me off.

  6. Deus ex machina. Pisses me off every time.

    I’m your reader. You’ve put me through an emotional ringer. I’ve been with your H/h to hell and back, & I’m at the point where my heart’s in my throat. Your heroine’s sold her body, the family farm, & her sainted mother’s diamond ring to race to her hero’s side, just as he’s being cuffed and dragged inside the walls of a Turkish prison. Face scarred, newly-blinded, he can’t see her as she falls begging to her knees, weeping and clutching her belly, suddenly in the throes of a miscarriage, when…

    A black Benz pulls up, containing her billionaire long-lost uncle we’ve never heard of, who throws a little money around, whisks them away, saves the child because he practiced obstetrics as a youth, before he became a wealthy plastic surgeon who’ll not only save the hero’s sight, but make him even handsomer than before, and..

    And I’m left wondering, if problems are so easily resolved, why I bothered to read the book at all!


  7. Raine, that infuriates me! It’s literary cheating.

  8. I read that book too. *gg*

  9. Raine, that’s exactly what I mean, Deus ex Machina! I hate it when in paranormal/fantasy, there’s this All-Powerful character, whom I call God, who drops by at the last moment to save the day.

  10. May, LOL! It’s hard for a writer to catch repeat words in their own writing, which is why they have critique partners and an editor. After a while, it’s hard to catch anything being so close to the story.

  11. Silma, I hear you about a sex scene that comes out of nowhere. You’re like huh? What?

  12. Charli, I can’t finish books when I don’t care about the characters or believe that they belong together.

  13. Laure, I think it all depends on how the writer pulls the ending off. Sometimes it works and sometimes it makes you want to throw the book. The author you’re referring to obviously caught you up in her story/voice or you wouldn’t be looking forward to the next installment. I hope it’s worth the wait.:)

  14. Bailey, The use of curse words has to fit the character. If it doesn’t or if they’re thrown into every sentence, then it’s just silly because very few people outside of Britain speak that way. (Even those of us who curse like sailors in real life. I’m off to wash my mouth out with soap now. 😉

  15. Raine, That’s what is called lazy writing. (shaking head) Unless you’ve hinted throughout the entire book, then you should have to ‘fix’ that kind of ending.

  16. That’s what I mean. I was raised by a WWII vet, so there’s not a lot of cuss words that bother me, or that I’ve never said. But I picked up a book a few weeks ago, a romantic suspense where the hero said the “f” word in almost every sentence. It was if the word were thrown in for the shock value – he was a lawyer. I quit reading the book.

  17. Bailey, I would’ve too because lawyers are VERY careful with that they say. That’s out of character big time!

  18. Jordan, that’s probably my biggest pet peeve too. I call it “Dropping the ball” syndrome.

    A lot of noteable authors do it and it never fails to piss me off.

    I actually just did this myself with a story I finished writing. I know it and I know I have to fix it *sob*

  19. Sharon, (((Hugs))) Good luck with fixing it. I think it’s an easy thing to do, especially if you’re ready to see the backside of a story.

  20. Details for details’ sake drives me crazy. I’m all for description in scenes but I don’t need to know how many hairs are on the Hobbitt’s foot, or the color and consistency of the mud between his toes. Leave something for my imagination, for pity’s sake!

  21. A lot of things make me put aside books; poor writing, poor plotting, no plot, too much plot, etc. The only thing that makes me put aside an author forever is the “literary” ending.

    I can handle depressing endings, death endings, and endings that make me want to climb on the next Mars rover and hightail it off this planet. I’m a big girl and I don’t believe in HEA anyway. But if an author serves up an ending that has nothing to do with the story, is illogical in the extreme, and was obviously written in order to stick it to the reader while showing how cool the author is, that author’s books will never touch my shelves again.

    I have more authors that I don’t know if I can read anymore, notably: Charles Frazier, David Lindsey, Thomas Harris, China Mieville, and John Steinbeck. I think they’re all extremely talented, and I should read them again, but I took their books too personally, if that makes any sense.

  22. I have to weigh in on the abrupt ending too. Repetitiveness, esp if it smacks of a lazy way to fill pages just burns my a$$ and too much narrative especially if it’s navel gazing.

  23. EJ, I skim a lot of description too, which is why I have to force myself to add it when I’m writing. I want just enough to let the imagination take over. Other than that, forget it. 🙂

  24. PBW, It makes perfect sense. I don’t think writers should ever forget that their work is for the reader to consume. I mean you have to write the book for yourself, but it’s imperative that you never forget that the reader is along for the ride.

  25. Cece, I don’t like a lot of narrative either. It’s like the author assumes the reader can’t remember what they’ve already read. I think it comes from the rule of three that so many subscribe to.

  26. Good topic, Jordan! First on my list is confusing dark with psychotic (or any other psych disorder). Next, you have a hero and heroine, make them HEROIC. This is a story, let them have at it and rise to the occasion. Heroism can be manifest in small and great acts. Another: Continually restating the same damn information. I read a horror/thriller novel where one character lived with two women. This was an obvious fantasy of the author, because he harped on it in EVERY one of the chapters. Using nearly the same words. But said relationship had NOTHING to do with the story line in any way, shape or form, and was only about a minor character. Weird and annoying. If you restate info because it’s part of story, where your character is communicating and the restate is crucial to who the character is (like women, just after delivery, tend to redescribe – it’s a psych thing) I’m cool with it. Last: obvious author contrivance. Yes, the book itself is contrived, however, when it’s so heavy handed you feel clubbed whilst reading, man, that just sucks. Especially if you really like the characters. You feel bad for them.

  27. Ursula, Those are all really good points and I agree. Books are a lot like movies. There are so many things that can potentially go wrong that could ruin the experience.

  28. I’m with May. I’ve put books aside never to pick them up again because of words the author has used over and over and over and over again. That is really distracting. Yanks me right out of the story.