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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Happily Ever After – Or Not, A Satisfying Ending: a guest post by JC Nelson

Note From Liana: Huge round of applause for my friend and crit partner J.C. Nelson whose debut novel FREE AGENT comes out today! 

I admit to being a sucker for happily ever after endings. Or at least endings which leave me believing that these characters I’ve spent hours of my life with are going to be ok, even if I don’t get to see it. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about what it is that makes a satisfying ending – the ending I was waiting for, even if I didn’t know it.

My writer friends have come to fear when I read their climactic chapters, not because I’m some guru or expert about how everything should be done. But because for endings, I have high expectations.  So here are the components, for me, of an ending that will leave me feeling like my journey with the characters wasn’t wasted:

1.       I need stakes. The ending has to have something critical at stake. It may not be the end of the world, but it has to be important to the character. If a book’s final confrontation is about whether or not a fast food order is made right…the stakes need to be higher.

2.       I need key moments.  The ending has to make me feel like we followed the right set of characters to reach this ending, this resolution. If I can swap the characters in a story out for a set of boy scouts, and they weren’t already boy scouts, and the novel still ends the same way…not good. Why? Because the ending has to match the characters.

3.       I need the ending to be a product of the character’s journey in the novel.  If the character’s arc is to hold fast against everything, then I need to see that affirmed.  If the character is on an arc of change, I want to see that change be the key to the resolution.

So you can summarize this simply: Happily ever after or not, the best endings are the ones where I know that the resolution is simply the only one that could possibly have happened. That given these characters, their journey, and the situation, there couldn’t have been another outcome, because it was who they were.

I remain a sucker for happy endings. I see enough ugly in real life, every day. In my books I want the promise of something better. But happy or not, I need the ending to match the characters and their situation.

For me, that’s the key to a satisfying ending.  What do you like to see in an ending? Kissing? Death? (Death and Kissing?)  Noble sacrifices, or epic battles?

1 Signed Print copy of Free Agent, 4 electronic copies of Free Agent:
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When it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem—from eliminating imps to finding prince charming—as long as you can pay the price…

Working for Grimm isn’t Marissa Locks’s dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don’t have many career options. To pay off her parents’ debt and earn her freedom, Marissa must do whatever Grimm asks, no matter what fairy-tale fiasco she’s called on to deal with.

Setting up a second-rate princess with a first-class prince is just another day at the office. But when the matchmaking goes wrong, Marissa and Grimm find themselves in a bigger magical muddle than ever before. Not only has the prince gone missing, but the Fae are gearing up to attack Kingdom, and a new Fairy Godmother is sniffing around Grimm’s turf, threatening Marissa with the one thing she can’t resist: her heart’s wishes.

Now Marissa will have to take on Fairies, Fae, dragons, and princesses to save the realm—or give up any hope of ever getting her happy ending…


A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.

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  1. I thought I posted a comment!! Anyway, love this story. As for fairy tales, I was thinking a dark and twisted version of Little Red Riding Hood.

  2. I was always obsessed with the Beauty and the Beast, the original. With the daughters. I know, dark. lol

  3. I love Beauty and the Beast but I love a lot of them! :D

  4. @Andrew - Free Agent has its own version of Little Red Riding Hood. She's...unpleasant.

  5. I've heard great things about this from Liana. Can't wait to read! :)

  6. Oh, and I don't have a favourite fairy tale. That's like asking me to choose my favourite book. The shortest list I ever managed to weasel it down to was my top ten. O:)