A good ending is the hardest thing for a writer to pull off. Readers can be swept along by fabulous narratives, full of twist and turn, but it is the final chapter - the lingering taste in the mouth - against which a story will ultimately be judged. And rightly so. It is the point where things come together - make sense - or fall apart. A bad ending exposes the author as a fraud. A good ending makes her/him seem like a magician. A bad ending feels contrived, shallow, forgettable. A good one manages unexpectedness, while, crucially, remaining true to all that has gone before. Its characters exit the stage, yet we feel as if they live on.
For me, this is why satisfaction with even the most ingenious seasonal TV series - Homeland et al - starts to pall. There is never a proper 'ending'. Instead, we are led a merry dance, teased, manipulated, towards yet another supposedly grand finale that is no more than a teeing up for the next year's serving of more-of-the-same. It is like eating a bag of sweets - more-ish but ultimately un-satiating. If a plot is endless then................... why should we care about it?
Real life, of course, offers few neat conclusions, teed up or otherwise. We strive, we reach for things, and are constantly blown off course. Sometimes in small ways (cancelled trains, twisted ankles, lost passports), sometimes in vast ways (violence, love, illness). And when it comes to our own endings (dignitas and suicide aside) we have least control of all, a powerlessness mirrored only by the unlookedfor matter of actually being born. Birth, Death, they just happen.
And if I am honest, which, with age, I try increasingly to be, I am sure that some of the appeal of writing fiction is simply because it offers some sort of counterbalance to this uncertainty. My novels may not be 'real life', but at least I am in charge. Endings may be fiendish to get right. Characters may rebel, storming off down paths one had not envisaged and hurling out unexpected words. But at least, when the chips are down, I retain the glorious power to rein them in, sort them out, brush them down and nudge them towards their destinies.