How Does It All End?

I recently read this blog entry at The Washington Post. My favorite bit is this, from Caps’ defenseman John Carlson.

* John Carlson finished the Hunger Games trilogy and did not like how it ended. “It was a terrible ending, and I was really not happy to see how it ended. In fact, I’m kinda mad right now.”

Warning: Probable THG spoilers ahead. I myself recently finished reading The Hunger Games and have to say, Carlson has a point. I’m not mad about it, though. (I hope he channels that energy into the playoffs!) Still, I did have to wonder at how traditional the ending is. Katniss has been through the Games, been through dangerous battles in the rebellion, and at the end of it all — she marries, falls in love, and has kids (pretty much in that order).

This made me think of my favorite ending to a book — the end scene in the sixth book of Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. I will give you a basic spoiler warning, but these books are over forty years old, so I think any statute of limitations on spoilers has long since expired.

Elric is the last Emperor of Melnibone. His people are decadent and declining as humans are ascending. He has gone to explore the world, accompanied by the semi-sentient sword Stormbringer, forged by the Lords of Chaos. (Note: anything made by chaos is going to be inherently unstable.) At the end of the original six books (Moorcock wrote others that filled in “gaps” in the original story), Elric and his friend and ally, Moonglum of Elwher, stand at the end of the world. Really, the world is ending. Stormbringer, never one to be too concerned about friend or foe, kills Moonglum and then, in a surprising turn, kills Elric. Stormbringer, the Stealer of Souls, takes that of its … well, let’s say partner. Elric was never the sword’s master; even he’d admit that.

You don’t often see your hero get offed like that. Not after all he’d been through — almost dying, losing his empire, losing both of the women he loved to Stormbringer, suffering the caprices of his patron, Arioch, Duke of Chaos. Usually the hero gets a respite at the end of it all. You could certainly argue that death is a respite, but one gets the impression that dying at the point of Stormbringer is not exactly going gently into that good night. And Stormbringer’s final words are excellent: “Farewell, my friend. I was ever a thousand times more evil than thou.”

Awesome.

Anyone who’s read my stories knows I like happy endings. And I do. It’s a nice break from the mudslinging politics and police blotter stuff we read in the paper. Yes a happy ending isn’t always the right ending. Take Elric, for example. He was a misfit among his own people to start with, both in appearance and thought; he breaks with many traditions; he must fight off his cousin’s attempt at usurping the throne; he loses the two women he loves to his erstwhile ally, Stormbringer; he loses friends along the way and almost himself, and by the time the world is ending, his people are scattered to the winds. His reputation precedes him, and not in a good way. Just where is he supposed to go, even the world hadn’t ended? No, I think Elric met the only proper end.

What’s a proper end in romance/erotica? It depends on the story, of course, and I’m going to stick with romances here. Common ending: engagement or marriage, with an epilogue describing the ensuing happy life, likely with kids. This is fine. I’m married with kids myself, and happy about it, and so if someone else can be happy that way, well, great. However, I noticed as I went along that I didn’t do this in my romances.

In Nothing Gets Through, for example, the two leads, Dom and Lani, never even say “I love you.” No one seemed to mind, though. The point wasn’t whether they did or would fall in love. The point was that Lani felt betrayed by Dom’s life being exposed in the newspaper when he wouldn’t tell her any of those details himself. Dom realized this and tried to make it up to her. In Numbers Game, the two leads did get to “I love you,” but only that far. The point there was two people taking a chance and trying to make up for a previous mistake.

I could go on, but you get the idea. In my were stories, I pretty much side-step the whole marriage issue with the mating theme/convention that’s in so much of that genre. I like that, really. It’s a convenient way to have people commit to each other without having to have a marriage, even an elopement. I find there are more interesting things to write about. The getting there is what I like. The chase, essentially.

So what’s important to me is the right ending, even more than the happy ending.

Best movie ending? I suppose I have to go with Some Like it Hot. 🙂

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Lady Falcon on April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I never thought about what kind of ending I prefer and if asked the question without your blog I would have said happy, duh. But, after reading your blog I have to agree the right ending is best. There have been movies over the years that I said “WTH?!” as the credits rolled. Please tell me they didn’t just end it that way? Of course, my memory stinks and I don’t remember which movies got that response from me. 🙂

    As to your Hockey stories not having the love, marriage, kids thing….I didn’t miss it. The stories ended right for the place the characters were in….could you have kept writing until the characters were in the right place for marriage and all that? Maybe, but, like I said earlier…I didn’t miss it.

    Reply

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