Monday, April 26, 2010

Endings with Barbara Monajem

I'm out of pocket this week because I'm in Ohio at the Romantic Times Convention. But I didn't want to leave you dangling, so I've arranged for a whole week of great guests and features here on my blog. Today my guest is Barbara Monajem, whose debut title SUNRISE IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE AND EVIL is making quite a splash!

Take it away, Barbara!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about endings—not that I particularly wanted to, but I’ve been writing and rewriting the ending of my September release, Tastes of Love & Evil, and it’s been a real struggle. My editor and I have been lobbing the last few scenes back and forth like unwieldy ping-pong balls. It has to be done, though. I think the ending of a story is as important as the beginning. You want to leave readers with a sense of satisfaction and completion (and of course you want them to come back for more of the same). I’m talking romance, mostly—the kind of story that has to end in a happily ever after.

As a reader, I’m usually happiest with endings that are short, even to the point of abruptness. The hero and heroine are committed to one another, the danger is past, and the future beckons. That’s it. I don’t need long-drawn out explanations and conclusions.

Even less necessary to me are epilogues, except now and then when they serve as a means of giving bad guys their comeuppance without clogging up the last few scenes. Generally, I don’t want to know what takes place after the story ends. I don’t want to be told then and there how many kids the hero and heroine have or what happens ten years later. I far prefer bits and snatches of the hero and heroine’s lives when they show up as secondary characters in other novels, because these are delightful and timely peeks into a familiar and sometimes beloved story world. As a writer, one reason I don’t want to write epilogues is because I’d be stuck with that future if I wanted to write more about those characters, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll think up something better down the road. :)

Also (again as a reader), I don’t care particularly for anything too sweet or sentimental. I tend to feel that the sentimental stuff is so obviously implied in a love relationship that it shouldn’t have to be mentioned. The relationship’s success can be shown through other kinds of emotion and interaction—wit, mutual respect and trust, and so on. My preference for minimal sentiment doesn’t stop me from writing somewhat sappy endings, though (or so they seem to me).

Anyway, to get to the ending of this blog: What do you like to find when you reach the end of a book? Short wrap-up or epilogue? Do you want the mood to be sweet, sentimental, humorous, or sharp and tangy? Do you want to use your imagination, or do you like the author to tell you what comes next? How about the bad guys? Is defeating them enough, or do they have to be punished as well? (If they’re not already dead, that is. Killing the bad guys works well for me. Dust off hands, move on with life.)

A signed copy of Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil will go to a more or less random commenter.

Emily here again! Thanks for guest hosting today. I wanted to share Barbara's upcoming title as well. Aren't these beautiful covers? When you leave a comment or question, you might want to leave your email as well so Barb can contact you if you're her winner. Hope you're all having a great day! I'll be sharing my RT experience when I'm home next week!

Don't miss tomorrow's post. Romance legend Connie Mason will be with us, talking about her new LORD OF DEVIL ISLE!


Gillian Layne said...

Hi Barbara! I've heard all sorts of great things about "Sunrise".

I don't remember too many endings that really stuck with me, the way a 'black moment' will, but I do like it when the books are a series, and so the ending of one hints at the beginning of the next book.

You know, as long as the bad guy gets his comeuppance, I don't need to know too many details.

Oh--endings that come full circle, with something hinted at in the beginning of the book? Those are good.

Great post, Barbara!

Deb said...

Thank you for being here today, Barbara.

I am opposite of you as a reader because I do want a long ending. I want all the whys and wherefores as well as the i's dotted and the t's crossed. I know there have been some endings that were so abrupt, I literally said aloud, "What!? That's it?" As for the bad guy, yeah, do away with him quickly, I really don't want to know about him.

I usually don't like to leave my emails...sorry.

EmilyBryan said...

Hey everybody! I do have internet access here, so I'll be popping on the blog when I get a minute.

For me, an ending is satisfying if all the scales balance. In this respect, romance is a very moral genre. The good are rewarded. The evil are punished.

EmilyBryan said...

Deb, since you have a blogger ID with an email, you don't need to leave it for us to get in touch with you if you win. So we're good!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Great topic! I want the quick ending too, although (probably because I'm coming out of an urban fantasy background), I like my HEAs with a twist. If the book ends with a kiss and a marriage proposal, I'm likely to toss it at the wall! (Probably going to be thrown out of romance-land now--LOL.)

Barbara Monajem said...

Thanks, Gillian. I love those full circle endings, too. In fact, if the book ends on a full circle note, I don't need much else, because I've got that sense of completion. :) What amazes me is that often my writer subconscious (aka Crafty Muse) sets the end up at the beginning -- but my conscious mind usually has to go back to figure out what it is.

Barbara Monajem said...

Deb wrote: I know there have been some endings that were so abrupt, I literally said aloud, "What!? That's it?"

LOL. I've come across a few of those, too. I want all the dotting and crossing to be done...just quickly, like getting rid of the bad guys. But sometimes mine are a little too quick! (Because I'm in a hurry to move to something new, maybe.) Fortunately, there are editors out there who crack the whip (gently!) and insist on closure.

Barbara Monajem said...

Emily! Hope you're having fun. Re balancing the scales, I sometimes have a hard time caring much about punishing the bad guys once the hero and heroine are safe and happy. Maybe I'm a little too forgiving! The easiest is often to kill off the bad guy, because it's so final.

Hmm... Unless one is writing a ghost story, I guess! (Which I'm not. But that might be an exciting plot for a horror story. Which I'm not writing.)

Barbara Monajem said...

Suzanne - LOL. For me, the type of ending depends partly on the genre within romance. In paranormal or urban fantasy, I can be perfectly satisfied reading a book with an implied happy ending. In historical, I feel that things have to be much more wrapped up - wedding is imminent or has already happened, for example - because the difficulties were so great for women in extramarital relationships. Regardless, though, I like the decision of the characters about their future to be an equal one.

Kat Sheridan said...

I like a nice, soft landing at the end of a romance, with a hint that the future is rosy for them. I'm not fond of epilogues, I don't need to know they have six children, along with all their names, etc. I just want to know the characters have finished their growth arcs as individuals, that they've begun one as a couple, and that the villain is fully dealt with.

And I've been hearing faboulous things about your book! It's on my to-buy list. Wishing you every success with it!

Barbara Monajem said...

Autumn - I enjoy the kind of series where the hook for the next one is built into the whole story, usually in the form of a secondary character who piques my interest. And as a writer, a fun secondary character makes my job easier, as I have a ready-made character with whom to start the next book. :)

Mona Risk said...

Hi Barbara, I like endings where all loose ends are tied, where not only hero and heroine reach their HEA but where I know what becomes of the secondary characters. Even if you plan to use them in a series, at least I want to know that in a way they have reached their little goal and have their closure in the present story. It usually annoy me to try to guess the endings but I can't stand endings that drag. Once H and h have solved their problems and agreed they love each other, let them enjoy their future privately. LOL

I haven't read Sunrise yet. Soon I will get it and make time.

Terry Spear said...

I love endings where everything is all wrapped up, and it's a feel good moment. I love it when I continue to ponder the story, to still love the main characters long after I've finished the book. But in one story, I thought she ended up with the bad guy, my daughter thought she ended up with the good guy. Now endings like that are truly awful--especially since it took 4 books when it could have been 2, to get there! In two others, we learned that the hero died eventually, the gray haired heroine lived on to have thousands of grandkids...huh? I really don't want to hear that! End it already at the HEA. :)

Barbara Monajem said...

Mona, I think you're absolutely right about wanting all the little loose ends tied up (especially in a romance). That doesn't mean I want to do it, LOL. I really like leaving questions open, but it does drive people crazy. Again, thank God for editors.

Barbara Monajem said...

Terry - Yes! I love those feel-good endings, too (and they can be short or long). When I continue to think about the characters and their future, I know I've read a good book.

Bella Street said...

Great blog!

While I like endings that let me know the hero and heroine are 'forever', I prefer endings that leave the door slightly ajar. An intentional not-so-tidy wrap up keeps me thinking about the book, wondering if there might be a sequel (with main characters or the side kicks), wondering of the author had a hidden meaning, etc.

Keeping me guessing keeps me buying that author's books!

Sandy said...


I loved your cover.

For the end, I don't mind epilogues if it's necessary.

Barbara Monajem said...

Kat - Thanks! I like how you describe your favorite ending as a soft landing. What a great way to put it!

Barbara Monajem said...

Bella - Yes! I like to be kept guessing, too - even about something I'm going to write, LOL. Surprises are fun, and doors ajar are always tempting.

Barbara Monajem said...

Sandy - Thanks! I've had a lot of compliments on the cover. Kudos to the fabulous art department at Dorchester Publishing.

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Everybody,
Just checking in. I'm sitting in on Jade Lee's Characterization workshop. Good stuff!

Delle Jacobs said...

Hi Barbara!

I like the quick wrap-up type and usually find epilogues sappy. I did one once. It was sappy. But it was the only way to keep an extremely controlling, domineering secondary character from grabbing the show at the end.

I've had a couple of people say they wanted epilogues on my stories. You know, something with the new baby in the husband's arms. One time I said, "But what if they didn't have kids? What if he went off to war and didn't come back?" Oops. Shouldn't have said that.

Barbara Monajem said...

Delle - LOL. When imagining the futures of characters in books I've really enjoyed, I try hard not to think of all the bad things that could happen, but they do creep into my thoughts. Now and then I'll read a sequel where something bad HAS happened to a favorite character, and that's really, really hard to take.

Nynke said...

I like my villains behind bars and my H/H thoroughly committed... but preferably without sappy baby references, at least in sexy contemporary romances (I don't find babies particularly sexy).
Closure is important, but epilogues can ruin a story, I think. The worst I ever read in this respect was a great fantasy novel by a buddhist Dutchman by wrote a really cool, fun, romantic swashbuckler story, only to ruin it by relating how the hero's wife died after ten years of marriage and how he the hero then found wisdom as a kind of buddhist monk. Might have been good for his soul, but it didn't help the fantasy... :-/

Otherwise, I agree that full circles are the best! :)

Mary Marvella said...

Barbara, don't tell anyone, but I sometimes skim a long epilogue. Yep, I do. If the end goes beyond what I need to know or if the book goes on too long, I shut off.

Once upon a time I loved the "at the altar scene" or H&H and kidlets with one on the way.

Interesting discussion you started.

Barbara Monajem said...

Nynke - Wow. Now that's an epilogue I wouldn't want to read. I guess the author wanted a story with a message?

Mary - I can stop reading a book 1/2 way through, but once I reach the epilogue, I pretty much *have* to read it as well. Can't stop two pages from the end, and skimming just won't do.

Mitzi H. said...

I like an epilogue but I like it short and sweet. With just enough info to let you know life is good between the H/h...and if a series or cliff hanger, a hint of what is coming next.

I was going to say that I like the bad guy dead as a door nail at the end of the story...but I can think of several ongoing novels where the "bad guy" survived to live another day....such as Outlander and Black Jack Randall. (Sure was glad he died in the second book because I think I would have had to travel back in time and kill the SOB).

The best endings are those that leave me with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart...and I say to myself "Wow, what a great story".

Barbara Monajem said...

Mitzi - Yeah, occasionally I'd gladly kill a villain myself, but on the other hand, now and then I read about a villain that I'd like to reform.

I like to smile at the end of a book, but a few tears are pretty good sometimes. I just finished Kay Thomas's Bulletproof Bodyguard, and the last few lines brought tears to my eyes.

Author Roast and Toast said...

Now this is interesting. I like my endings to hint at something more.
Great post Barbara, you are phenomenal!!

librarypat said...

Hi, Barbara, good post.
At the end of a book, I kind of like an Epilogue. After all, we have been with these characters for a while and want to make sure they have a good future.
As for the mood, I think that needs to reflect the relationship between hero and heroine.
I like to and do use my imagination. Give me clues and I can fill in the blanks.
As for the bad guys, it depends on the story and the bad guys. Murderous individuals should meet a fitting end. However, a jealous or spiteful ex-lover doesn't deserve to die. If a character has been mean or cruel transportation to Australia is always a good punishment.
Let the characters determine the ending.
I look forward ti reading your books.

librarypat AT comcams DOT netf

Glynis Peters said...

I like a nicely polished ending. I do not enjoy an abrupt ending, I feel short changed.

Carol L. said...

Hi Barbara,
I love that HEA. Even if it's a series. I want to know that the hero and heroine have finished their business and I can focus on the next book in the series. I hate abrupt endings with unanswered questions. I want to fling the book and say "are you freakin kidding me" ?
An example, I love, love The Outlander series. But the latest book in the series Echo in The Bone left me sitting and staring and frozen for about 10 minutes with a red rage passing before my eyes because I felt like I was left hanging from a cliff. I actually checked the page numbers because I thought I must have missed something.
Thanks for the pot
Carol L.

Tracy Madison said...

Hi, Barbara! I finally found my way here. What a great post! (Please don't enter me for the drawing, as I already have a copy of your awesome book).

I like both types of endings. I guess, for me, whether it should be short and sweet or in an epilogue depends on the story itself. But when an ending is right, I know it. I get that gushy, wonderful, "Oh, I just read a fantastic book" feeling.

Hm. Yeah, that's about as clear as mud, isn't it?

Barbara Monajem said...

Wow, more comments! Thanks, Mary, Pat, Glynis, Carol and Tracy. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's opinions. The variety is wonderful and not at all surprising, I guess...

Barbara Monajem said...

The winner of the signed copy of Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil is... Gillian Layne! Contact me at with your snail mail address so I can ship your prize.