Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Button Endings.

While I was in Canada, I had the chance to see the play Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. Overall, it was a good production of a play I'd call mediocre at best. (Sorry, Bill, I'm sure you tried. Still, you've done better.)

Really, this issue with Two Gents (and this will be delicately phrased to avoid spoilers) is the ending. In the middle of a scene of tremendous drama and conflict (or at least potential drama and conflict), there's a short pause wherein every character who is justifiably ticked off at one of the two gents just magically decides -- all at the same time, mind you -- that never mind, they're not mad anymore. As far as I'm concerned, someone might as well have hit an easy button in the hopes of wrapping the nonsense up quickly.

My objection to Easy Button Endings is quite simple: they're ridiculous.

Let me expand on that point before anyone gets offended. I know that claim sounds harsh, but I tend to find that any ending that wraps up ever single issue in the story in a single scene (especially in a very short scene) is radically oversimplifying human emotions or bypassing several perfectly legitimate reactions and responses a character could (and probably would) make in the hopes of creating a simple and neat solution.

I firmly believe that endings are the most important part.

(Yes, I had to invoke Secret Window. Always. If only because Johnny Depp is awesome.)

Therefore, when I see someone do something like this, or as I'd probably call it, blow the ending, I find myself tempted to drop the book and gripe to whoever's on hand (to the Other One's unending joy).

Endings should be good. They should be interesting, inventive, reasonable (read: physically possible and sense-making), and they should reflect the way these characters and, you know, actual humans might respond in the given situation.

For example, if a many tries to murder his girlfriend with an ax, most women would not leap at the chance to take that man back. If a character has a deathly phobia of spiders, she probably won't be carrying one in her purse just in time for it to come into play in the final scene.

If they ending doesn't work, the reader is going to feel very frustrated. And, as far as I'm concerned, they'll have a right to, because many readers (myself included) read for a resolution of some sort. They did their share of the work by reading the whole book, and it's only fair that the writer should do their share and write an ending worth getting to.

That, in my opinion, means taking the time to resolve the plot and resolve it in a way that makes sense and flows in terms of logic, the laws of physics, and human emotions.

I, myself, have occasionally been guilty of an Easy Button Ending. I'm editing the Thief Book and am scrapping the last 4.5 pages, because I took the easy way out and wrote an Easy Button Ending. I'd gotten tired, and the MS was running long, so I slapped an ending on there that doesn't logically track or make sense for the world of my story. Bad me. I shouldn't do that to a reader.

Do you share my frustration with Easy Button Endings? Do you not mind them? Have you ever felt like a writer was using an Easy Button to wrap it all up? Do you own an Easy Button? Do you share my love of Johnny Depp?


  1. Oh, how I would love having an Easy Button. Yes, overly convenient endings, or resolutions in general get a large "What the -!" from me. This is especially embarrassing if I'm in public (which is one of the reasons I try to seclude myself as much as possible). It lessens my opinion of the book and the writer - though, I will admit, I have 'forgiven' a few writers of this fault due to my overall love of their work.

    I've used an Easy Button a couple times...but I don't think it's as noticeable. Instead of having a character's backstory involve exile, a quest, and a separate villain, I dropped all that and made my lesser villain the main villain, for simplicity's sake. I also dropped a whole bunch of political junk, though I don't think I resolved that story as well as I should have... But that was for a movie screenplay instead of an actual novel, so I don't count it as much ;)

    Oh, and yes, I do love Johnny Depp as well ^_^

  2. Yes!!! Many a good book (and movie) have been ruined by Easy Button endings. They are a result of lazy writing and being tempted by the shortcut. I'm talking about the ones that make no logical sense or seem to come out of thin air.

    I judge a book (movie) by it entirety, which means if the ending sucks...the book sucks. I don't care how much I loved it up until the final pages...if it falls flat or disappoints at the end it ruins my whole perception of the book. I don't believe I'm alone judging this way.

  3. Vicki -- I don't deny, I often forgive writers if their other work is awesome. (Hey, I forgave Shakespeare, and the ending of Two Gents really was, in my mind, that bad.) Everyone has an off moment. I'm glad to know someone else loves Johnny Depp. ^_^

    DL -- I'd say that a lot of people share that manner of judging books. If one part of the book is very, very bad, it can be hard for the book/movie/play to recover.