Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#1
Imagine this:

You are reading a novel that you've been enjoying. Most to all aspects of it have been to your liking and you are anticipating for it to be one of your favourite novels of all time. However, you get to the end of the story and become disappointed at the resolution to this story you've thoroughly admired because the ending doesn’t stick the landing.

Does a bad ending ruin the whole story for you? Feel free to provide your own experiences with this concept!

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#2
Depends. For instance, Wild Arms XF, I loved the game all the way until the last act. This last act, which had a few contenders for a better final boss. Given the story direction, they went with the worst possible one. That would have killed the game for me, but the one thing that made me like it as a whole. Was the ending, which saved the experience. 

So yeah, a bad ending in this sense can kill the experience. Despite liking pretty much everything else, I would argue learning to nail it can be the difference between something good or bad. Though, if it ends good enough. It won’t ruin the experience I would say.

Now, if you ever played FFVII Crisis Core. This game is a tragedy from end to end, really getting you deeply invested into the story. Then capitalizing this in the last battle of the game, which you cannot win. You are forced to endure, as everything steadily slips away. Ending on a powerful note, as you see Angeal descending, taking Zack away. It really gave you an idea of what Shinra was, who Zack was. And in the end, even though he saved only one life. He did achieve what he wanted, and that was to be a hero.

Crisis Core is a great example of a tragedy, that even though it ends bad. This bad ending is an amazing one that sticks with many. It is a great example of a story that knew how to keep building on the situation, how to keep tugging at the string. How to keep giving you that slim chance of hope, and even when it is taken away. What is left is a memorable experience.

Now as for purely bad endings, as in. If it just doesn’t line up, then yeah. It can straight out just ruin it. 
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#4
I have recommended books that have a weak ending, particularly Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh.  With that one, the book is so long the ending is barely 1% if it and a lot of plot threads were resolved satisfactorily before the ending.  But if a book ends with crap like "it was all a dream" that's a sign the author gas bad judgment or bad taste, so I'll be suspicious of the next book by that author that catches my interest.

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#7

Quote:It certainly can. Just as a bad last book in a 15 book series can make you bitter you waited years for an ending. (Looking at you, Honor Harrington.)

But I think you have to look no further than the ending to Game of Thrones for how a bad ending ruins a story for people.
The Honor Harrington-series was... not to my liking since the attempted assassination with the nuke ship or so. The first few books were ok (the POW-planet arc was very good), but I got fed up quite early.


GoT... The last two seasons were a crime against Humanity, and should have never seen the light of day. How the books-series will end? Good question.

Back on topic:
I can live with bad endings (see Star Wars, with the terrorists winning, the rightful ruler assassinated and poor Ewoks killed off), IF the logic of the story dictates that end, and the "bed" ending is justified. If the bad ending is only there, because the author was lazy and/or fed up with the story, and just pulled stuff out of his behind...? No. 
See GoT. Writing the ending to a convoluted, epic story was handed to an untalented slob, who probably didn't even read the books and certainly didn't understand any of the characters. And/or was fed up with the whole thing.

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#9
Yeah. 

It doesn't even have to be a bad ending, just.. if it's not what I hyped for, it's a problem. Like Gideon the Ninth, for example. Technically it's one of my favorite books of all time. I was hooked until the very last word and it hits many of my favorite tropes and genres. BUT, the reason I read it in the first place was because I had seen it on Amazons bestseller list for lesbian romance. And lets just say. It's very very very much not a romance. It has a lesbian MC, which is not the same thing at all, since.. there's no romance... and the tragedy tag? Yeah that's there for a reason  DrakanSigh

Frankly, what could've been one of my favorite ever reading experiences was ruined because of a single misplaced tag. I'm still a bit mad about that. It's not even the storys fault. The ending is technically not bad and if I had found the book through any other way, I would've bought all its flaws and adored almost everything about it. But I went in there thinking it was a romance and, uh. Yeah. 

It's an interesting anecdote, because it shows that endings are really all about reader expectations. Excellent ones are surprising, but they never break reading expectations. A book ending can be somewhat boring and that might still be better than a great ending delivering something the reader wasn't hyping for. It's all about the hype. 

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#10
Bad ending in terms of how the writer wraps everything to finish the story: yeah. Things like rushed storylines, loose ends (or unresolved plot points) can negatively affect the ending. Sometimes, a cliffhanger can be be a part of this especially if readers need to read a sequel or sequels just to know what happens (some people don't mind reading a sequel, but this scenario isn't for everyone)

Bad ending in terms of scenarios like "hero doesn't win" or "hero dies": no, because the author is in charge of the story. They can do what they wish to end it. 

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#11
Personally, no it does not break the story for me. Usually if something like a bad ending happens, I tend to forget that it ever happened so I can retain the good memories that the rest of the series brought for me. Take Soul Eater for example, they screwed over the ended of the anime but it still doesn't ruin the rest of the show for me. I hear that the manga's ending was also different so I just dissociate from the anime ending and believe that there is a super dope ending for the manga. 

Interested to see what everyone else thinks on this though.

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#12
It depends on why the ending is bad, I think. If the final battle simply fails to impress because the action is slow or stuff got rushed, or even if the author pulls out a deus ex, while unsatisfying, that doesn't necessarily change what happened before. The worst endings are the ones that give everything that happened before a different meaning, or takes away meaning. Worst is stuff like "and then MC woke up."
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#13

Quote:Back on topic:

I can live with bad endings (see Star Wars, with the terrorists winning, the rightful ruler assassinated and poor Ewoks killed off),
 Ewoks ruined the series for me with their original inclusion. Lucas was being too silly with a bad fit for his universe and narrative goals.

Killing them off, however, was taking things too seriously.
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#14

Quote:Ewoks ruined the series for me with their original inclusion. Lucas was being too silly with a bad fit for his universe and narrative goals.

Killing them off, however, was taking things too seriously.
Lucas was just a cheapass. He wanted wookies, but was told, the costumes were too expensive, but since he still wanted furries, he just scaled down wookies into ewoks. 

The killing-off part he did in the worst possible way - detonating a HUGE artificial moon in close orbit and pretending, the Sanctuary Moon wasn't affected in any way. You see the poor ewoks celebrating their imminent death and you are told, they are celebrating the death of an Emperor, they haven't known anything about two days previously. 
All the while the "good guys" smile patronizingly at the primitives. Do you see any evacuation flights? No. This is what you got for trusting in terrorists.

Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#15

Kerma Wrote: It depends on why the ending is bad, I think. If the final battle simply fails to impress because the action is slow or stuff got rushed, or even if the author pulls out a deus ex, while unsatisfying, that doesn't necessarily change what happened before. The worst endings are the ones that give everything that happened before a different meaning, or takes away meaning. Worst is stuff like "and then MC woke up."


Okay, here's where I've got to say 'nothing is bad if done well'.

One of my favorite authors, who I have not only had the privilege of meeting, but also (briefly) interviewing for a quote for an article I wrote, once wrote a book that really set a nigh-impassible bar for literature that 'felt fae'. It isn't a stunt, it isn't a 'reader FU', it's an example of a Master Tier author writing a novel in which the 'and then she woke up' ending is shocking yet inevitable, and done in a way that by the very last page felt poignant and triumphant.

I'd say 'don't click on the spoiler in case you're reading it', but effit, it is just that good, if you like Grimdark Fairy Tales in Novel Sized Portions? Even a spoiler isn't likely to spoil it.

Spoiler :
The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#16
When the story's 'climax' isn't so much a climax which resolves the rising tension, but instead turns into a multi-page, sometimes multi-chapter author rant about some social cause or another.

Don't get me wrong, I can handle social or political commentary in books; I am a huge Pratchett fanboi, and while his books are rarely topical, they never fail to have some form of socio-political commentary baked into the story.

But when the story just *STOPS* so someone (frequently a lawyer, occasionally a journalist) in the story can spew political dogma? Yeah, I want the time I spent reading the rest of the story back. Native Son comes to mind; it's been thirty five years since I read it, and I still remember reading a really gritty story about life as a young Black man in an early 1900s city just screeching to a halt the moment he gets into a courtroom, where his lawyer spends the remainder of the book talking about how Socialism Would Solve All The World's Problems.
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#17

Mr Wrote:
Quote:Ewoks ruined the series for me with their original inclusion. Lucas was being too silly with a bad fit for his universe and narrative goals.

Killing them off, however, was taking things too seriously.
Lucas was just a cheapass. He wanted wookies, but was told, the costumes were too expensive, but since he still wanted furries, he just scaled down wookies into ewoks. 

The killing-off part he did in the worst possible way - detonating a HUGE artificial moon in close orbit and pretending, the Sanctuary Moon wasn't affected in any way. You see the poor ewoks celebrating their imminent death and you are told, they are celebrating the death of an Emperor, they haven't known anything about two days previously. 
All the while the "good guys" smile patronizingly at the primitives. Do you see any evacuation flights? No. This is what you got for trusting in terrorists.


I didn't realize it was a costuming cost issue. I thought it was a case of Lucas thinking audiences expected Wookies to be tech-savvy after seeing Chewbacca basically keep a ship running for two straight movies.

FWIW, from what I've read Lucas *hated* Star Wars. It wasn't 'art' enough for him.
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#18

Quote:But when the story just *STOPS* so someone (frequently a lawyer, occasionally a journalist) in the story can spew political dogma? Yeah, I want the time I spent reading the rest of the story back. Native Son comes to mind; it's been thirty five years since I read it, and I still remember reading a really gritty story about life as a young Black man in an early 1900s city just screeching to a halt the moment he gets into a courtroom, where his lawyer spends the remainder of the book talking about how Socialism Would Solve All The World's Problems.


The 1960 movie El Cid could have been great if freakin Hollywood honored the source material and not turned it into To Kill A Mockingbird set in the High Middle Ages of Iberia.
Entirely insulting. I don't want to see a twentieth-twenty-first century mentality and set of sentiments anywhere near that kind of story.
Tasìa del Alma-Gris
Book One: The Gray Soul
Book Two: The Premie Harvest
Book Three: The Ascendant City
Science Fiction Mystery
A thief in a post-apocalyptic
South America struggles
to survive and thrive.
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Quote:Through my reading, I was engrossed
An tale of interest, you may boast
A real page turner, I stayed up late
Hooked, I read several chapters straight

-MTurner










Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#19
Bad endings are sad and disappointing, but if it's written well and makes sense, then I don't really mind it. It's kind of like dark chocolate, bittersweet but not bad.  DrakanBook
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Re: Bad endings; do they completely break a story for you?

#20

Quote:I didn't realize it was a costuming cost issue. I thought it was a case of Lucas thinking audiences expected Wookies to be tech-savvy after seeing Chewbacca basically keep a ship running for two straight movies.
There are quite a few things in the Original Three, where cost-cuts influenced the finished product. Allegedly, the ISDs were built with whatever the guys could get for cheap - it is said, there are toy soldiers built into the superstructure.


[joke]Also, Lucas couldn't afford trained military men, so had to settle for random guys. It showed, no Stormtrooper ever hit anything :)[/joke]