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14

Moral ambiguity = the fuel of good literature. To answer your question in more concrete, and perhaps useful, terms: As all us really old people know, there's really no such thing as a happy ending. Things break down, everyone dies, entropy rules, and so on, blah, blah, blah. Whether an ending is "happy" or not I've found to be negligible as far as the ...


14

It seems to be something which has fallen out of practice, but many fairy tales were originally written with horrible gruesome endings, mainly in order to scare children into good behavior. The original The Little Mermaid, for instance, would have emphasized the importance of being an obedient daughter and not accepting favors from shady characters. Several ...


10

It depends. Ending each chapter on a cliff hanger is a plot device used in some genres, like thrillers. Dan Brown uses it extensively in his books, as do some other writers. If well done, they can make the book more exciting, and gives it that 'can't put down' feel. On the other hand, if done badly, it irritates the reader, as it seems the only purpose of ...


7

If you didn't create an outline — that is, if you didn't know beforehand how it was going to end — then you're suffering from impeded arborvision (you can't see the forest for the trees). 1) Put it in a drawer and don't read it for a month. Come back with fresher eyes. You'd be amazed what you catch. 2) Hand it off to someone else and ask your ...


6

It doesn't sound hopeful to me. Also, is there any reason why this has to be so universal and not more personal? It comes across as kind of preachy. Introspective might be both more powerful and moving. The first sentence could benefit by the rule of threes. List three things, not six. I find this statement confusing: "although according to the fundamental ...


5

I'm going to spin this around for you. In Jeffrey Schechter's My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, Schechter suggests that a lot of theme is about the protagonist asking a thematic question, e.g., "Should I settle for less romantically?" "Can I balance 'ordinary' responsibilities with my secret identity?" "How do I decide who to trust?" And in ...


5

This answer is highly, highly subjective. But I personally dislike almost every YA dystopian future novel I've ever read (they're all the same thing to me and they're all predictable), so I think if you're asking about reader expectations, I might be a good person to answer the question... mostly because I see similarities in all of the YA novels I've ...


5

Proper tense cliffhangers should be kept for a few occasions, otherwise your readers will guess what is happening, because they know it needs to have a problem by the end of the chapter. Like Eastenders. However leaving the ends of chapters in limbo - unresolved, with the characters walking off to certain death, while you take up another thread of the story ...


5

At least in theater, one name for that device is open ending.


4

To add a little to Scarlett's answer (which is excellent BTW): Happy endings are far more prevalent than tragic ones because they're easier to pull off badly. In order to understand how an ending should be executed it is necessary to understand a little about endings. It cannot have escaped your attention that in many happy endings a male and female ...


4

mootinator makes a good point. But I can imagine a public that, while not interested in unfortunate endings per sé, might be interested in "neutral" endings, namely the skeptic community. Real life is not supposed to suck, neither is it supposed to be good to us, it's rather "indifferent" to our fortunes, although the word "indifferent" is a bit too ...


4

Do you want to piss your readers off? No? Then call a tragedy a tragedy, a drama a drama and a romance a romance. This question is all about customers' expectations. You can call your story a romance and end it in disaster. But be prepared to disappoint a lot of readers (also be prepared for their reviews). Of course not all readers expect a romance to end ...


4

Which end do readers expect? Either of the ones you given. Some will expect one, others the other That's why you should choose neither. You have two obvious options, plus a dull 'no choice made'. That's one point where the difference between a common book and an excellent one is made. This is where the protagonist should not just decide or fail to make a ...


3

Regarding the substance of your question: The maxim that Robert McKee passes along in Story is “give the readers what they expect, but not the way they expect it”. Your first option, where the protagonists don’t decide, is clearly unsatisfying. Even Hamlet eventually made a choice and acted on it. The second option, killing the bad guys, makes this a ...


3

I know I’m “bucking the hypo” here (as the law students say), but I have a lot of trouble with the premise that only 20 corpses stand between a mildly dystopian society and something radically better than even the most liberal real-world government can offer its citizens. If those 20 people have been profiting off of the misery and inequality of the society ...


3

When you want to use a gift as a symbol, then it should be an object that has meaning to the protagonists. It only has meaning to the protagonists when it has meaning to your story. You should have introduced it during your story, the protagonists used/handled/interacted with it somehow. If it has meaning to the story, the reader understands the symbol ...


3

I would say no. Not for a book. Regardless of how you are defining cliffhanger, I don't think you need an aaiiigh!! moment at the end of every single chapter. A chapter should end for a reason, but that reason doesn't have to be a shock, reversal, discovery, or threat to life/limb/happiness. If you use the same trick or tool repeatedly, in the same place ...


2

Don't worry about it. Just balance out the darkness with some charm. If the young reader loves your characters and enjoys the tale, he or she will put up with anything. Look at J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Those are grim, grim books. Death is a prevalent theme from the outset. Fully one third of the books is about someone's dead parents, or how ...


2

1) As far as concept, there's nothing to improve. I like this quite a bit. The mystery and the philosophy dovetail nicely. There isn't a lot of action, and whatever "happens" is occurring in dialogue. This works really well. 2) Action tags can be almost anywhere you like; it's mostly a choice of style. As long as it's clear to whom the action belongs, ...


2

In the first paragraph, make the list stick to only one repetition, either "everything" or "all". The conflict really detracts from the message; the repetition is important style device but mixing the two words or phrases negates the benefit. Your second paragraph has its sentences run too long. It would benefit from being chopped up, giving the paragraph ...


2

I like it a lot, reminds me a little bit of what "Enter the Void" would be like if it was narrated. I also like the sadder aspects of it; I can imagine it'd be a really profound and impactful way to finish your story. However, it could possibly do with some polish on a few of the syntax and lexical choices. One's obvious: in "We’d need to think higher than ...


2

The sentences starting with "then" etc can usually be amended by leaving them out, and indicating the time using more expressive statements: They were dark and deep, like small black holes. Sophia felt as if they were looking directly into her soul. The very core of her existence. She was terrified, but for some reason, she found something familiar in ...


2

Your idealistic young heroes kill the 20, thereby getting what's necessary to change their dystopia into a utopia (at great personal sacrifice) -- and then watch in horror as human nature takes over. See: history of communism. See also: history of right-wing dictators. Utopias are highly unstable. Power corrupts. Everyone lies.


2

There are two classic good, satisfactory approaches to ending a story. Let me call them "Less is More" and "Afterglow." "Less is more" ends before the key point - possibly seconds or hours before it. The text built a rich story in the reader's head, there were many threads that converged towards one single point. Then the explicit story, the one told to the ...


2

Beyond John Smithers's excellent answer... If you don't have the proverbial thorn for Androcles to remove from the lion's paw, you can choose something which is symbolic in general, so people immediately understand what it means. For example, if A presents B with a diamond ring, and B wears it on the left ring finger, in most of the western world that's an ...


1

I think readers want a good story, not a particular type of ending. After writing (or even just outlining) all three endings, you'll be able to decide, better than we can, which is the best. We really can't say without more of the details. (On those details, though, I will say that: it depends greatly on the 20. Are they a secret society of corrupt ...


1

In my opinion, literary genres are not defined in terms of “your story must have A and B, but not C, in order to belong to genre X”. Rather, they are defined by “A, B, and C, are exemplars of genre X”. So even if contemporary category romances all have happy endings, your story can run against that trend as long as it resembles the classics of the genre in ...


1

"Love Story" by Erich Segal. (Book and movie) "The Way We Were" (movie only) "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell (book and movie) "Romeo and Juliet" by...really, I could have just led with this! Do I need to go on?


1

The dialogue is OK, but I was distracted by the constant mentions of glass. For me, it disrupts the flow of conversation.You use it in almost every paragraph. Try to make bartending and drinking more interesting. "The neon sign was still flickering from time to time." Flickering neon is a beaten-to-death cliche. Maybe add some man playing sad song on the ...


1

It also depends on the target age group. Conventional wisdom indicates that older children - say, preteens - can handle more complex and negative stories than small children. Hence why you get the newbery medal syndrome where the dog always dies at the end to teach children about death and moving on from tragedy.



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