Paula is approaching the end of her 'work in progress; but isn't sure exactly how it is going to end!
When I first start a novel, all I really know is that the hero and heroine will have a 'happy ending'. By the time I am partway through the story, I usually have at least a vague idea about the final scene and how I am going to get there. However, with my current novel (now standing at about 67,000 words), even I don't know how I am going to bring the hero and heroine together or when/where that final scene will happen.
This made me start thinking about how we end our romance novels. We see lots of advice about the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter – providing the hook, drawing in the reader to make them want to read on, etc. But what about the last chapter, paragraph or line a novel?
I’m reminded of the King’s advice to the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end and then stop.”
Where’s the best place to stop? In a romance, it’s taken for granted that there will be a happy ending. Does that mean a wedding, or at least a proposal? Or does it simply mean that the reader knows these two characters will be happy together and get through what life throws at them from now on?
I’ve read romances where the ending is contrived – some coincidence brings them back together, or one of them is injured and the other rushes to their side in the hospital. I’ve also read romances where the reconciliation comes two (or even more) chapters before the end and the rest is padded out with buying the dress and walking down the aisle. In contrast, I’ve read rushed endings that leave one thinking ‘Oh, is that it? But what about …’
Explanations (and apologies) may be needed at the end of the story, but these don’t have to be dragged out. Nor does the ending have to beat you over the head with sappiness where they repeatedly declare their undying love and drift around on pink clouds of happiness.
I prefer romances to ‘come to the end and then stop’. The couple come back together, sort out whatever the problems have been, and then the story ends, leaving the reader knowing they’ve made an emotional commitment to each other and a willingness to explore a future together.
And what about that last paragraph and final sentence? I think those need as much care and thought as your first sentence and paragraph, in order to ‘round off’ the story in a satisfying way for your characters - and more importantly, for your readers.
Now I just need to work out how to get my novel to ...