I earned an MFA from Wayne State University in Detroit. I've published over a dozen short stories in various magazines and e-zines. My novel, "The Dragons of Hazlett", is now out, and I have two new novels which will be published by Mundania Press, LLC this year and in 2011.
How many times have you heard this on television? Nearly every week, some show or another is promising its viewers an ending they won't believe. Or can't imagine. Or will be shocked by.
Sure, surprise endings have their place, but they've been way overused of late. Unexpected surprise endings might work in a short story or a television show, but a very good surprise ending is very difficult to write. Why?
1) In many cases, the audience is expecting it. Most people, when reading a story, are working to forecast the direction of the plot (Where is this story going? What's going to happen next?). This means that, aside from children (who are more of a pure audience due to their lack of experience), most readers will spot a 'surprise' ending a mile away. And, believe me, there is nothing worse than a surprise ending that falls flat.
2) Because of #1 above, writers must reach farther and farther for an ending that will actually surprise the readers. This means that, in many cases, surprise endings are becoming more and more improbable. Some even reek of deus ex machina.
3) Surprise endings often fall into the realm of cliche. Joe Bob thinks that everyone has forgotten his birthday, but all of his friends were merely planning a surprise party for him. Mary Jane thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her because he's out all night, but - wow! - he's really a vampire. Little Billy is being chased by a huge monster, but - surprise!! - he wakes up and finds out that it is all a dream.
Again, there is nothing worse than a surprise ending that is no surprise.There are much better ways to build tension in your fiction. Over the next few posts, I'm going to explore some of these ways. There. I've told you what I plan to do and, therefore, have spoiled the surprise.On purpose.