Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How should romance novels end?

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 line or paragraph or page of 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 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 2 (or even 3) 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.
Since I’m starting on the promotion trail this week for my November release, I’ll leave you with the last few lines of ‘Her Only Option’:
“If, at any time in the future, you think someone’s threatening me, will you tell me?”
“Only if you promise not to say ‘It’s my problem, I’ll deal with it’.”
Ross laughed. “We’ll deal with things together from now on. Okay?”
“Very much okay.”
With a smile, she leaned forward to kiss him, and he wrapped his arms around her.
Together from now on. That sounded so good.


  1. Nice job on that ending!

    Sometimes I have an ending line in mind before a beginning one. :) Sometimes it takes a bit longer. With a couple of my books, I've 'restated' the title a bit. Which has worked out fine so far in that I've gotten to keep the titles I've come up with.

    I don't like an ending that's rushed. I want things to play out nicely and come to a logical and satisfying conclusion. But I also agree that we don't need a lot of filler after the HEA.

  2. Thanks, Debra. I usually have an idea about the ending well before I get to it, but don't really know the last few lines until I actually get tothat point.
    In the case of 'Her Only Option', I wanted to show what both characters had learnt that would stand them in good stead for the future i.e. dealing with things together, rather than being so independent!

  3. I like the ending to Her Only Option, Paula.
    A rushed, contrived and completely unsatisfactory ending to an unnamed multi-published author's book was what prompted me to start writing. I thought (naively) how hard can it be?

  4. Thanks, Ana :-)
    I remember you telling me about that unsatisfactory ending (and I know the author too!) but I think the best writers do actually make it look effortless and easy! At the same time, I have my doubts about those who 'churn out' two or three (or more) books per year for HQN etc - but maybe I'm just envious that they can do that, when I agonise over all the editing and polishing of mine!

  5. I love that ending! Good luck with the new book.