We’ve all read a book that we looked forward to, but were ultimately disappointed with. But what if we were to rewrite the ending? What would we do? This week’s question is brought to us by Amy Morris-Jones.
I’m more likely to want to rewrite someone else’s book from the ground up than I am to want to rewrite just the ending. Frankly I can’t think of any ending that I disliked without also disliking some continuous thread in the rest of the book. I suppose there is one book where I could twist the ending to make everything that had come before it suddenly a satire, instead of the horrifically cliche outsider-becomes-hero-of-the-land-and-bangs-the-queen tale it was, but I’d still want to rewrite a lot of what came before.
I actually have a very recent experience with this. I just finished a series where the epilogue was a “10 years later…” that was choppy and rushed anyway. I would’ve shaved off the epilogue and made it into a short story or novella to stand on its own (since the rest of the book stood on its own without the epilogue).
The book that comes to mind at the moment is the final Hunger Games book. I haven’t read it for a long time, but I remember that it was based around a love triangle (which is always challenging for an author to navigate). Without getting too specific and ruining it for those who haven’t read it, the protagonist chooses to be with one of her suitors—not a problem. What is a problem is that the other suitor is just sort of “written off,” sent to a faraway assignment. Although the writer tried to explain the protagonist’s choice, it didn’t feel “earned” as an ending. I didn’t care which of the suitors the protagonist chose, as long as there was a choice. This one felt more like a “this is what I’m left with” ending.
I can’t say as I have gone so far as to rewrite the ending of a published book, but I have been disappointed by a few over the years. Given the time and energy, I would rewrite absolute cliffhanger endings to have at least some level of resolution while still leaving me wanting for the next book. Honestly, that’s the poor ending that drives me nuts most. If the author can’t end the first book, I have little faith they’ll give me any satisfaction at the end of the second or third and I have better things to read than five books to get to the one that finally wraps it all up.
The other ending that makes me throw books is the one that just randomly ends. The main plot may end or but several subplots are still open. Sometimes it’s more like the plot just peters out. I’m left wondering if the author died between the last sentence and what should have been the next, and the publisher just went with it.
Oh absolutely. There have been plenty of books that I loved, but the ending just didn’t sit with me. Usually when I’m not pleased with an ending it has to do with a death that I didn’t think was necessary, or two characters getting together even though they just didn’t seem like the right match. I can’t really talk about much without screaming “SPOILER ALERT!!!”throughout the entire thing, but there’s one pop-culturally relevant series that comes to mind immediately. In said series, there’s a big battle at the end, and multiple characters die. This is completely reasonable because it’s a battle between good and evil, and you have to understand that some people won’t make it through. But some of the choices that the author made about which characters would kick the bucket…well, they bugged me. Some characters’ deaths worked to create an emotional reaction, but others more or less made me miserable.
And make no mistake, there’s a big difference between a sympathetic emotional reaction, and complete misery. Ever read Stephen King’s “The Mist”? The ending of that book was brilliant, in my opinion. It made you think, and it made you fearful for what might happen behind the scenes after the last word on the page. Now, have you ever seen the movie adaptation? That ending (ignoring the fact that Stephen King loved it, because he’s a total psychopath) makes you absolutely miserable. You walk away from that last scene literally feeling like you’ve lost years off of your life from having watched it. I hate that stuff. I like a good emotional connection, and as a writer I enjoy making people love my characters only to have to deal with the harsh reality of their lives/deaths. But if I start making you feel suicidal? Please let me know, because that nonsense is unnecessary.
I have two answers to this question, and will try to elaborate as much as possible while avoiding spoilers. Let’s see how that goes.
As much as I loved Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, I felt the ending could’ve been wrapped up better. It felt rushed, and a major plot point was not resolved. I would’ve liked to see that character complete what he set out to do, even if the resolution was unfavorable, rather than see him give up.
The second is Isaac Asimov’s second robot detective novel, The Naked Sun. Again, loved the story, but didn’t like how it ended. Let’s just say I would have made sure a major player was held more accountable for his/her part in the crime.
Toward the end of Mockingjay there is a certain death that has a large effect on the ending, and is also somewhat contrived in my opinion, so that it’s hard not to imagine how things would have gone otherwise.
This is a dangerous question. I can think of two books where I would like to change the ending. One is a teen favorite, but in all honesty I would change the entire book. So that book shall remain nameless. The other book, also a teen book, is the last in a trilogy. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth. I loved the first book, was thrilled with the second book, and was less than happy with Allegiant. No spoilers, I wouldn’t change who lived, died, or ended up alone that was perfect. I felt the premise was a bit of a letdown. It may be that I figured it out and was disappointed. It just felt like Roth took the easy way out. My apologies to Roth, she is a great writer, I just would have liked a different reason behind it all. I was carried away by the characters and their trials in the first book and even the second.
I wanted to once, but the author put out a new edition of the book with all the changes I would have made. Don’t you hate telepaths? *ironic grin*
Ha! I did, actually rewrite the ending of a book as a “fanfic.” It was 50 Shades of Grey and can be found here. It will take about 30 seconds to read…
I loved Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The next two books were good. However, 3001: The Final Odyssey seem like something he just put out to wrap up the story. The book went slowly with not much happening, but the ending had absolutely no tension or suspense. He did so well with the first two books in that respect, but for the final one, it had me thinking, “That’s it?” The final solution was something I felt not much thought went into. I could find so many flaws with it, I would completely rewrite it. Into what, I don’t know. Just something with more tension and a more satisfying conclusion.
How about you?
Is there a book you’ve read that you’d love to rewrite the ending of? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.