I recently received some comments that build upon the last few years of writing blogs and, thus, am forced to ponder them, especially since the comments come from different sources. The gist of them is that the conclusions to my articles are weak.
The latest comment came accompanied by the client stating that the ending to the article I wrote left him wanting to read more. Well, I thought, isn’t that the goal of a good storyteller? To leave the reader wanting more?
As a fiction writer–a storyteller–I want my readers to understand that the story has ended, but not be so satiated by the story that they feel no need or desire to read more of my work. That’s the appeal of series: to keep readers hooked by an engaging, continuing plot and characters they like. That’s the premise of the cliffhanger, to leave readers panting for more so that they’ll automatically buy the next installment in order to see what happens next in the story, to get those dangling questions answered, to finally reach the end of the story.
As a reader, I prefer a conclusion that leaves me both satisfied and hungry for more. As a writer, I tend to compose short, pithy, pointed endings to articles, short stories, and books.
The traditional structure of a book sets up the plot and develops the characters for the first half, accelerates to rising action, hits the climax at around three-quarters of the way through the book, and then gracefully descends into the denouement that leads to a relaxing, replete conclusion. How utterly boring.
Interesting characters evolve and grow and change throughout the story–just like people do. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, a decade ago, or even half a century ago. Why should my characters remain static?
Also, today’s readers haven’t the taste for spending half a book on exposition and description: they want to get to the action. That preference favors taut writing and tight storytelling. Look at two extremes: Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway. They both tell intriguing stories, but which would you rather read?
So, I accept that I need to spend more time and effort building the conclusions to the articles I write. But not too much. I really don’t want the reader to dawdle through a soft, wishy-washy conclusion that can be stated with succinct, concise statements. Word count takes a distant second place to reader engagement.