by Shobhan Bantwal
After you have dreamed up a marvelous storyline, engaging characters, and an intriguing opening for your novel, are you perhaps stumped about how to end your tale? There is the danger of falling in love with your own story and wanting it to go on and on, right? So when, where, and how to end one's book can sometimes be a challenge, at least for me.
I am a hopeless romantic, therefore I want a sweet and/or dramatic end. In my debut book, The Dowry Bride, the original version ended in an epilogue, with my heroine and hero blissfully married and expecting their first child. Throughout the story, they manage to overcome the endless roadblocks with grace and tenacity, so I wanted a truly gratifying closure.
However, I had two very discerning and bright critique partners who pointed out that delving into the characters' future was like licking the stale sauce off a plate of fine food left on the counter overnight. In other words, overkill.
Well, that certainly squashed my sentimental finale. So how did I manage to keep my readers satisfied and yet conclude the story on an interesting note? My heroine learns from her experiences that freedom is vital to her, despite her deep love for the hero. She wants to savor her newly-gained independence from her abusive marriage before she will commit to marrying another man. In the end I hinted at abiding love and wedding bells for the future without actually portraying them, leaving something for the readers to ponder when they closed the book.
A couple of my subsequent books also end on a positive note without the proverbial "happily-ever-after." I believe readers are more erudite today than fiction readers of yesteryear. Their lifestyles and tastes are diverse. A broader range of readers as well as writers has altered the literary scene. The ever-widening spectrum of genres attests to that fact. My own books are sold as multi-cultural women's fiction with strong romantic elements, a mixed genre unheard of several years ago.
As a consequence, the storyline, including the ending, has become trickier for a multi-genre writer like me. While my romantic heart wants a love-forever closure, I try to curb that instinct, and instead introduce a buoyant conclusion without the sappiness. So far, because my books are not pure romance, this strategy has worked very effectively for me.
I would love to hear your viewpoints, experiences, and comments about endings.