Reading

Do You Like To Guess The Ending?

A short but sweet question today: when you’re reading women’s fiction, do you like to be able to guess the ending? If so, how far through the book do you prefer to be, before you figure out the likely direction of the plot?

Photo thanks: G-point

Photo thanks: G-point

I was thinking about this as I listened to Emily Giffin’s The One & Only. I haven’t finished it, so I can’t say for sure I figured out what would happen, but when a certain male character’s physical appearance was described in chapter one, I had a pretty good idea he would feature as a significant love interest. As a writer, maybe my antennae are slightly more tuned into that. And, sorry, but whenever a female character throws up, I can’t help but forecast a pregnancy. πŸ˜‰

By contrast, in Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close, I was much further through the book before I figured out what had happened to (missing) Wayne. I spotted it just a little before the protagonist, and found that highly satisfying. Additionally, for most of the novel, I wasn’t sure who would win the day with Helen on the romance side of things.

In classic romantic novels, it’s often easy to predict which man who will share the heroine’s ultimate happy ending, and the thrill is in watching them get there. My husband, however, can never truly love a book or movie unless he is completely blindsided by a twist in the tale.

This isn’t just idle curiosity. My next novel is likely to have the word Secrets somewhere in the title and I’m wondering how and when you most like to encounter the big – or sly – reveal.

So, for chick lit, what’s your preference? Do you like to remain mostly in the dark? Or are you happier when you can spot the destination, allowing you to revel in the journey?

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15 Comment

  1. Reply
    Gwen
    July 29, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    While I find it impossible not to guess, I really rather be surprised, if not shocked by the twists and turns of a plot. It has to be believable, yet surprising. Like in your example of the male character above, it might be his less hunky yet handyman brother or even good looking father that becomes the love interest. It can’t be the guy that pumped gas while he burped in chapter one, lol. That would not be believable.

    There was a book that I read last year, not in your genre, but I think it was Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas and that one made me say “Holy shit” out loud. I could see it coming but it was even more dastardly than I was assuming. (sorry for the use of dastardly, but have been reading up on Silent Films lately and that comes up a lot) You knew it was going to be bad, but yowzah, not that bad.

  2. Reply
    Pauline
    July 29, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Gwen, you’re absolutely allowed to use dastardly, and I shall keep my eyes open for this example of expert twist-making.

  3. Reply
    Sandie
    July 30, 2014 at 6:57 am

    There’s something comforting about reliable endings, but it is nice to be surprised once in a while too. I do confess though, if I really can’t figure it out, I have been known to sneak a peek at the last few pages. *slaps own wrist*

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      July 30, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Sandie, that’s good to know. I admit I hadn’t thought of actually peeking… πŸ™‚

  4. Reply
    Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie
    July 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I think writers are careful readers. We work with words, so we tend to notice words and wonder more frequently than the average reader why THAT particular series of words was laid down in THAT particular place or in THAT particular way. I love the art and craft of storytelling – but it ruins me as a reader and movie-goer. Instead of reading about a plane crash and experiencing it as a plane crash, I think: Plane crash. Okay. Inciting incident. Next comes the drop then the rising conflict…

    I do think writers need to trust their readers and not overstate things. Most readers will pick-up most things in the narrative so we don’t have to overplay the entrance of the love interest or the smoking gun on the mantle.

    I think sometimes writers are worried the reader might miss something so they leave the smoking gun on the mantle and then end the chapter thinking a cliff hanger or red herring or hint needs to be placed in that location of the chapter. “She left the room, never seeing the smoking gun on the mantle…” (End of chapter) That’s too abrupt if you’re wanting to be subtle.

    if there’s a smoking gun, is it revealed to the reader in dialogue, internal monologue, setting, narrative or something else? There are so many ways and methods to drop clues or secrets into a narrative I think writers need to be mindful of the choices they make with the tools of the trade available to them. Certainly, you pose a question all writers struggle with.

    I’d love to hear more about your “secrets!”

    Thank you for linking this thought-provoking post to the Hump Day Blog Hop! Always, always, always a pleasure to read your posts, Pauline.

    Cheers!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      July 30, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Great point, Julie: we must trust our readers to “get it”.

  5. Reply
    Martina
    July 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

    It’s an interesting question, Pauline.
    In Saving Saffron Sweeting I liked the fact, that until the very end we didn’t know who Grace was going to end up with. In my heart I had a favourite and I was hoping she would pick ‘my’ favourite, but I had to wait as I really couldn’t tell.

    I like to be surprised, I guess, and unlike Julie, when I do read a book, I completely forget that I’m also writer and I don’t really pay much attention to the clues that are dropped (that’s why I don’t read detective stories, I’m just hopeless at them!).

    So, I would say, maybe a few hints along the way would be fine, but something along the lines of your first novel would work very well with me πŸ™‚

  6. Reply
    Shelly Hickman
    July 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I have to say I prefer to be surprised, but there is a certain comfort in the expected, and honestly with all the books and movies we’re now exposed to, it really takes some doing to come up with truly surprising plot lines or endings. I agree with what Julie said that as a writer, we have to trust our readers to figure things out without holding their hands too much. That can be easier said than done, depending on the genre and storyline. I had a very difficult time with this in both my first and second books, which were on the metaphysical side.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion!

  7. Reply
    Jackie Bouchard
    July 30, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Hmmm. Good question, Pauline. I guess I read a fair number of books where it’s fairly obvious where the story is going, and the fun is in the getting there. If there is a big secret or a known big twist coming, I guess I do try to figure it out – and I think you’re right. Figuring it out just ahead of the protagonist is quite satisfying. I feel like you don’t want to figure it out TOO soon, as that takes some of the fun out of it. (On the other hand, my hubby likes to guess the ending right from the get-go, which makes me crazy. Showed him my fave old movie one night, with a great twist in it, and he guessed “who dun it” super early on. I was so annoyed with him for not enjoying all the twists and turns!)

  8. Reply
    Patricia Mann
    July 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    What a great question, Pauline! I never really thought about it, but after reading your post and the comments, I realize I do like to be surprised a little, but not too much. If the ending is totally predictable, I might lose interest. But if what I think is going to happen is so far from what actually happens, I might feel misled. Will be much more aware of my predictions and if whether or not they turn out to be correct in the next book I read! πŸ™‚

  9. Reply
    Lee Ann Howlett
    July 30, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I do try to guess endings and I hate to admit this but sometimes I peek! However, I’ve found that with books (and I should include films, too) it never bothers me to know the ending. The journey is what I enjoy.

  10. Reply
    Donna Woolam
    July 30, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I don’t like to guess the ending, but I frequently do; so, hmmm. Maybe I DO like to guess!?! Predictability of the story type does have something to do with it, I suppose. I truly love a good surprise ending; that feeling of “Well! I never saw that coming!”

  11. Reply
    Trish Marsom
    July 31, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Yep, I’m definitely guilty of trying to guess the ending. That’s part of the fun, right? (Btw, how are you liking Emily Giffin’s The One and Only? I like her other stuff but haven’t gotten this one…)

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      August 1, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Trish, I enjoyed it, but wasn’t completely swept away by the plot and the best friend character had me rolling my eyes. Interestingly, many reviewers on Amazon have taken exception to the main romantic relationship… oh, and it helps if you like football, too!

  12. Reply
    Elke Feuer
    August 1, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t like to know the ending. I want to be surprised. I think that’s why I love to read/write/watch mysteries.

    With most romances you know there’s a HEA, but what you don’t know is how they will get there. I love that!

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