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Old 11-18-2017, 02:06 PM   #1
Steven Lake
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Are Multiple Endings Okay?

Okay, I've got a question and I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I wanted to ask you guys to see what you think. As the title says, is doing multiple endings in a book okay, or generally taboo? I know Lord of the Rings has 3, if not 4 endings in the book itself. There's the death of Sauron and the crowning of the king, then the sacking of the shire, followed by the gray havens and lastly the story of Sam that sorta ends the book. Some may not count that last part, but I do. So that makes for essentially 4 endings to the book. But anyhow, what brings up this question is that, in the current book series I'm working on (Offworld Chronicles) the main story is planned to eventually reach its end several books from now just as the readers expect. But then there's another 3-4 chapters of cleanup I need to do after that with the main characters in order to setup for the followon sequel, "Ember Chronicles", which will lead to essentially two, possibly three endings to the book. I don't want to do all of that as an epilogue as that's too big for something like that. So I plan to keep it in the main body of the story.

So, that then brings me back to my original question. What is your opinion of stories with multiple endings? Are they okay if done right, or should they be avoided in their entirety? Again, I could use an epilogue to sort out the stuff with the main characters at the end that I need to tidy up. But that seems clunky at best as I was always taught that an epilogue should be short and sweet, no more than a chapter in size at best, and should always follow the actual ending as sort of a "where are they now" thing rather than an integral part of the story and, if skipped, would do no damage to the story itself, much in the same way as a prologue should be.

Anyhow, your 2c is welcome as always.
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Old 11-18-2017, 07:12 PM   #2
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Quick answer NO.
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:02 PM   #3
Steven Lake
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lol, okay. And the long answer? :P
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
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lol, okay. And the long answer? :P
Oh I was thinking alternate endings, not a series of endings of different parts of the story.
My apologies.
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Old 11-19-2017, 06:23 AM   #5
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I wouldn't call tying up loose ends on multiple story lines "multiple endings". Whatever you call it, I do like books that resolve multiple points.

But I hate books that tack on an extra chapter that's really nothing more than a teaser for the next book in the series. That reminds me of the endings of the old Batman TV shows with their "tune in next week to see how...". If you haven't made me care about the characters and engaged me with your writing throughout the book, it's not going to happen in a superfluous last chapter.

[Edit] OK, hate is too strong. I'm thinking of one book I read about a year ago. I liked the book overall, most everything about the current adventure was resolved by the next to last chapter, I was ready to read more adventures in the same world. The teaser ending was a let down and weakened the book as a whole. I still gave the second book a try, but abandoned it, it seemed the author ran out of new ideas.

Last edited by Alohamora; 11-19-2017 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 11-19-2017, 08:17 AM   #6
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My first reaction - to the title - was the same as Cinisajoy's: No. But then I read your description and see you mean an extended conclusion/wrap-up.

I'd have to say that the answer is still: generally no. But for epic works and series, especially fantasy, then: Yes, within reason, these can be a good thing; something that has enveloped the reader for this long sometimes needs a longer wrap-up to let the reader down more gently, to avoid feeling as if they've just been dropped out of the world.

As much as I like the conclusion to Lord of the Rings, I think it would be harder to get away with this now (the sacking of the shire, at least, would probably have to go; it's too much like a completely new story).

But this: "But then there's another 3-4 chapters of cleanup I need to do after that with the main characters in order to setup for the followon sequel," would worry me. This makes it sound like you're not actually ending your series at all, but dragging it on - which can be very annoying when you've been expecting a conclusion. Do you really need to set up your sequel as part of ending the first series? Why can that not wait for the sequel itself? (Quite likely not as the introduction, but as snippets fed to the reader as they get into the sequel.)

Remember that it is common these days for books to include some teaser chapters for a new book at the back of a book. So you may be able to have your cake and eat it too. That is to say, close off your first series neatly and cleanly (no next series set up; give a real, satisfying conclusion) but still give the reader the chance to be enticed into the next series (if that is what they want). Properly presented (as teaser chapters for a new book) lets the reader decide if/when to read them, and sets up entirely different expectations.
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Old 11-19-2017, 09:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Remember that it is common these days for books to include some teaser chapters for a new book at the back of a book. So you may be able to have your cake and eat it too. That is to say, close off your first series neatly and cleanly (no next series set up; give a real, satisfying conclusion) but still give the reader the chance to be enticed into the next series (if that is what they want). Properly presented (as teaser chapters for a new book) lets the reader decide if/when to read them, and sets up entirely different expectations.
What a splendid suggestion. I heartily recommend this as the way to approach what you've described.
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Old 11-19-2017, 12:16 PM   #8
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I just want to add I don't want to have to buy the sequel to get an ending.
To me: that seems like nothing more than a money hungry author.
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Old 11-23-2017, 03:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
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I just want to add I don't want to have to buy the sequel to get an ending.
To me: that seems like nothing more than a money hungry author.
^ This.

If an author leaves me hanging--that's it. There's no more money from me for another book. Oh, sure, I might buy the book, the 2nd one (or whatever), but you can bet it will be USED. No money for the author, none for the publisher. I cannot tell you how grasping and conniving that seems to me. And, no, you needn't point out LOTR or any others where it was done--most of those, like LOTR, are in a class by themselves, in some form or fashion.

(I'm still pissed off at Sci-Fantasy author Melanie Rawn, some few decades down the road, about her Ruins of Ambrai series, which she simply left with a massive hang, after two huge, epic-length novels. Y'know, if you can't finish the book, and don't have a SOLID outline of the entire story, beginning to end, spare us all the aggro, and don't bloody publish the ones BEFORE you gave up.)

My $.02, and worth less than that, obviously.

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Old 11-23-2017, 05:50 AM   #10
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This is my final word about multiple endings: Yes.

This is my final word about multiple endings: No.







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Old 11-23-2017, 06:50 AM   #11
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This is my final word about multiple endings: Maybe.



LotR is all one book, that's how I first read it and that's how I'll always see it. (That happens to be how it was intended, which is convenient but irrelevant.) The second and third* copies I've owned were printed it in three parts, but it's still one book.

For me it's all about expectations. For a series, even a long series, I can handle being left dangling on the intermediate parts, if the ride is good enough that there is no doubt of my heading out for the next one. (Neat endings for each book, like Rowling managed in the Harry Potter books, are best but not absolutely essential.) But the series had better come to a good conclusion - that is a must!

I remember one series, a trilogy - I thought. A silly, slightly soppy fantasy but good fun. I had so much fun that I happily bought the next trilogy to see how it was going to conclude. ... That wasn't as much fun, and the author started to break their own rules. I was starting to feel disillusioned before I got to the third book of the second trilogy ... and then I discovered the author was publishing a third trilogy - a continuation! It seemed the conclusion was (at least) another three thick books away. Those are three books that have never made it to our shelves, and I've never been able to recommend the first books to anyone because there was no conclusion.

Do not promise me an ending and then not deliver, or I shall be most seriously displeased.


* Sometimes, it turns out, even good friends cannot be trusted to keep books in good condition. I guess that's one extra advantage of ebooks: either you can't loan them, or if you can they cannot be torn, sat in coffee and all the rest of it.
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Old 11-23-2017, 07:22 AM   #12
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The last book I read with multiple endings was Battlefield Earth. It was an awful book.

Sort answer: NO
Long answer: NO WAY
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Old 11-23-2017, 07:39 AM   #13
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I'd say generally no.

The real question is "can I sustain the reader's interest after the initial 'ending'?" If you're just moving characters around to "tidy up" then my advice is don't do that. The test should be "is the reader left wanting to know what happened to Character X?" not "Let's get X to planet Y because that's where the next set of books are set."

I'd say - and tastes vary - it's OK to leave some doubt over the state of a character but avoid a total cliff-hanger.

Quote:
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But then there's another 3-4 chapters of cleanup I need to do after that with the main characters in order to setup for the followon sequel, "Ember Chronicles", which will lead to essentially two, possibly three endings to the book. I don't want to do all of that as an epilogue as that's too big for something like that. So I plan to keep it in the main body of the story.
The phrase "cleanup I need to do... setup for the follow on" worries me. It doesn't sound like fun to read. It sounds like narrative legwork. And 3-4 chapters? That sounds like a lot.

I'd challenge you to ask yourself how much of those 3-4 chapters "need" to exist at all. And if they do, are they part of this book? Start the next book where that story starts and if there's a 'gap' in the situation between the start of that story and the end of this one then close it from the other end. If this book ends with Sam signing up to join the Space Marines, then next book can start with Sam as a fry-cook in an out of the way spaceport diner. You can answer the question of how he got there in that story. Also you'll start off with the reader intrigued.
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Old 11-23-2017, 11:47 AM   #14
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I am still ticked, having to wait a couple of years to find out what happened to Ruth.

Spoiler:
The White Dragon, who may have been intended, by the author, as just an incidental player
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Old 11-23-2017, 12:00 PM   #15
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I am still ticked, having to wait a couple of years to find out what happened to Ruth.

Spoiler:
The White Dragon, who may have been intended, by the author, as just an incidental player
Discussing AM's The White Dragon and Dragonriders of Pern series, in the spoiler box, below; you've been warned.

Spoiler:
Oh right. I remember that, from the third book, wasn't it? Until TWD? Yabbut, obviously, AM never intended him to be a bit player. Those two, and his abilities--won't mention that, don't want spoilers--are clearly part of the ongoing bigger plot arc for the entire DOP series.


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