Spoiling the End

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I used to read about peeps who would read the end of the book before they read the rest of the book. I never really got why. We were talking romances, so the HEA was a given, it was just a matter of how the H/h got there. And the ending was always the big payoff for me, so why anticipate it.

Now I know. It’s still not a concern with me for romances, but for other genres with a romance subplot. There was a time where even in this arena I could depend on the romance being resolved in an emotionally satisfying way, as slight as the relationship might have been.

Lately, I’ve been feeling jerked around and manipulated by the author. Heroes dying, half way through the book, characters who are obviously crazy for each, going back and forth in a way that felt very artificial, only to decide to take a break at the end of the book.

WTF?

It’s not that these things (stalled relationships) can’t happen, and it’s not even about me *wanting* the resolution to happen. It’s about stringing the reader along. It’s about screwing up a relationship, that on paper really should have had a different ending, except that it felt like the author needed the plot to go in another direction.

I recently read a UF where the heroine’s love interest turned out to be a bad guy and died. The hero of the secondary romance (a bad guy who turned out to have a heart of gold) died also. I wasn’t upset by these deaths--a twee disappointed, yes—because what happened felt organic to the story and true to the characters.

When it doesn’t feel right (to me) I put the book down--as in do not even finish it because, remember, I’m checking the end of the story beforehand now--and since I no longer trust the author, chances are that might be the last book I read of theirs. Harsh? Probably. But I can find any number of folks to jerk me around in real life. I don’t want that in the books I read for enjoyment.
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11 comments:

Lynn Viehl said...

I can think of a couple of other authors' heroes I'd like to kill off before the end, but that's usually because they're chicks in mensuits and so beta they barely have a pulse. ;)

I like seeing authors writing something other than HEA; it brings back some of the excitement I felt as a kid when I was cruising for books at the library. I didn't know anything about authors, writing styles, genre or genre expectations, so I never knew what would happen or how the book would end. Reading was always an adventure, and I miss that.

I think there are enough hardcore HEA traditionalist writers out there to still satisfy the reader who only wants that sort of ending. To keep those readers happy, we probably should come up with some sort of rating system or sub-genre classification to warn them ahead of time. Maybe even just a set of symbols on the back cover -- a pink heart for books with HEA, a black heart for books with no HEA, and a heart with a ? in it for cliffhanger endings. :)

vanessa jaye said...

Lyn, believe me, I'm no hard-core "must have an HEA" reader. One of my favourite books from last year, The Shoe Queen, features a marriage and romance that do not end well. On one hand, it was sad, but on the other I just knew the heroine was going to be just fine and was on her way to finding fulfillment in achieving goals she probably didn't even know she had at the begining of the book.

My problem is when I feel like the author is manipulating me (granted, all writing is manipulative to some degree; but I want to be moved, not be aware that I'm being moved, if you get me. Especially when I'm being set up for a bigass unpleasant surprise.)

The UF I mentioned in my post had two relationships/romances that didn't end well. I still went out and bought the author's second follow-up book, because I didn't feel like she'd jerked me around.

In contrast I put down a book (not a romance) unfinished last week because of the back and forthing between the H/h, who were crazy about each other. A simple discussion about taking the relationship slowly, and working through some very real concerns/fears the heroine had re the hero's profession would have taken care of everything.

But I guess that will happen in the sequel book.

Maybe.

I'll never know....

Lynn Viehl said...

A simple discussion about taking the relationship slowly, and working through some very real concerns/fears the heroine had re the hero's profession would have taken care of everything.

I think I know what you mean -- like the emotional version of the Big Misunderstanding. If publishing required us to write the h/h as reasonable people who once things get serious do sit down and talk to each other about their problems, that would kill roughly about, what, half the romance novel plots out there? Lol.

I'm not knocking your frustration, though, and I didn't think you were a hardcore HEA-or-nothing reader (and there's no way I can qualify that without insulting the hardcore HEA crowd, so I'll just leave it at that.)

I think I'm also spoiled by the fact that I've had one romance subplot running for seven novels and another for nine; I've had the writing room and the sequel space to explore both relationships as they develop, regress, break up, get back together, weather trouble, etc. That development is always more interesting to me than the tidy ride off into the sunset, and to do it justice I need more than one book, but it also makes it harder to accept a romance wrap-up in a single novel. So perhaps HEA no longer works so well for me as a reader because I'm no longer interested in it as a writer, I don't know.

raine said...

I'm wanting to be sure I understand what you mean (because I've never read the end first--can't do it, lol!).

Do you mean you could accept these things--the H/h dying, overtly obvious stall mechanisms, and broken relationships remaining broken at the end--as long as they were true to the storyline and the author had done their job well?

Bernita said...

I always check the end.
Can't bear to invest in a story where it turns out sad.

vanessa jaye said...

Lynn, the arc of the romantic relationships in your books don't feel like more like a natural exploration way you write the development of your romantic relationships do not come across as an artificially drawn out. I have no problem with this type of longer arc.

I can actually deal with the classic Big Mis, as long as it isn't dragged out for too long.

When the reader starts thinking, 'Oh fer godsake!' it's because there's not enough characterization, conflict (and/or plot) to carry the story/romance *any further*. So all this filler/fake conflict/drama (ie killing off characters for no good reason, in a way that feels gratuitous) pops in to take the place of genuine story elements.

It's not the fact that it's done--that's all part and parcel of writing. It's the way, lengths, and supporting reasoning for it.

vanessa jaye said...

Do you mean you could accept these things--the H/h dying, overtly obvious stall mechanisms, and broken relationships remaining broken at the end--as long as they were true to the storyline and the author had done their job well?


Yes. I'm not saying I'd be thrilled with the ending--because, I'd always prefer a hopeful or happy end-- but the overall feeling that I'd be left with *wouldn't* be anger, if in the end I felt the ending/development were true to the story/characters and not unneccessarily manipulative.

vanessa jaye said...

Bernita, do you mean you check before you even start the book?

I'm not at that point yet... :-P

I tend to do the check for the end, somewhere in the middle of the book. There's always something that triggers the impulse.

The weird thing is, these are not romance books, they're 'other genre with romantic subplot'.

I never used to check, and I know I've read sad ending to the romantic subplots previously, so there has to be a reason I'm checking more and more lately, and I think it's all in the way (execution) re the way these relationships are being presented and/or resolved (or not).

Lynn Viehl said...

Yes. I'm not saying I'd be thrilled with the ending--because, I'd always prefer a hopeful or happy end-- but the overall feeling that I'd be left with *wouldn't* be anger, if in the end I felt the ending/development were true to the story/characters and not unneccessarily manipulative.

A couple of friends and I call that kind of book as having a Gladiator (the Russell Crowe movie) ending. Like the wrap-up of the movie, we may not particularly like it, but it serves the story and anything else would feel completely wrong.

raine said...

...if in the end I felt the ending/development were true to the story/characters and not unneccessarily manipulative.

Okay, I can definitely see that--allowing for the fact, as you said, that all writing is manipulative to some degree.
Yes. Agree.

vanessa jaye said...

Lynn, Gladiator is a good example. I was going to use The Notebook (the movie) Downer, ending, right? Yet anything would have been wrong, either by making the present day storyline superfluous, or making the whole think pointless and treacly. erm... 'more' treacly. heh.

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