Have you ever finished a great book with a difficult ending and found yourself both praising and condemning the author’s skill with storytelling? Maybe that author killed off a character, or turned a character into an antagonist, or otherwise went completely off track from the happy ending you might have expected. If you’re anything like me, you might have felt distressed—but simultaneously impressed.
I’ve certainly read books that only made me feel the former, but there are great authors out there with the gall to not only upset you, but make you see the beauty in that upset. Plot twists such as these often disrupt the status quo and separate the story from others like it. When done correctly, it makes for very interesting storytelling.
But I still feel bitter a lot of the time. I find myself trapped between a desire for unique storytelling and a desire for happy escapism. On one hand, I like to see an author take risks and do something new. On the other, I’m still a sucker for a happy ending—and a hopeless romantic whose quickest path to distress is a permanently foiled love match.
Often times, once I move past the original distress, I see how a less-than-happy plot twist shifts the narrative in an interesting way. In many cases, it pushes the protagonist on a new path, or breaks open room for fresh characterization. Sometimes I don’t appreciate the choice, especially if it feels out of place with the mood of the overall story—but other times, I acknowledge the skill involved in an author altering the status quo and forcing me, the reader, to feel something unexpected.
As I gain experience as a writer, these decisions in storytelling make more sense and become more intriguing. It works as a cycle. When I consider the impact of killing off a character or damaging a romance in my own stories, I gain new insight and a greater appreciation for reading. When I read books featuring these distressing plot twists, it forces me to reconsider my own writing and the risks I am willing to take with my characters.
What are your thoughts? Has a book ever left you with these conflicting feelings? If so, which books?
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.