Offcenter Endings

It doesn't seem fair, but an ineffective ending can invalidate, for a reader, an otherwise fine story. If the ending is bad, the whole story can become a letdown, even though the opening was involving and the middle was entirely satisfying while they were happening.

As readers, we generally don't notice parts of a story as separate things. We consider the apple we're eating as a unit without stopping to analyze the texture and taste of each individual bite. We're enjoyers and appreciators, notjudicious, objective critics. We either like the story-apple, or we don't.

The more we liked the first few bites, the opening and the middle, the more disappointed and angry we'll be if the ending falls flat. If the last bite of the apple makes us notice that half a worm remains, we're not going to say to ourselves, "Well, the first three bites were nice." We're going to toss away the apple in disgust and remember the worm.

It probably isn't fair. But it's true.

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