Last Sunday I was reading The End of Time, the last book in your Crispin trilogy. I was fully absorbed in the story when I turned the page and…let out a sound of shock and disgust. The story had stopped. It didn’t end, it just stopped.
You didn’t resolve anything! The only indication you gave of an ending was to match the last line with the title of the book. All you left me with was the suggestion that Crispin might get to Iceland, where he might find his freedom, but it probably won’t be nearly as nice as he was hoping. And he’s probably never going to see Troth again, and he’ll never claim his birthright as an English lord. What is that about?
I suppose you will give some excuse like, “I left it open ended so the readers can decide for themselves.” That’s a load of baloney sandwiches. If I wanted to make up an ending for myself, I would make up the whole story and never pick up a book at all. Don’t spend 300 pages buying my trust with your words only to abandon me when it’s too late to turn back.
Open endings are only acceptable in short stories, because short story readers are looking for a roller coaster ride, not a trip around the world. They are looking for something that will spark their imaginations and make them think. Novel readers, on the other hand, want something more – they are giving you more of their time and therefore expect a certain amount of satisfaction.
The moment you touch fingers to keys, you are making promises to your readers. Every problem you introduce is a promise for a solution. A novel is like a magic trick – the pledge (“Look at this ordinary bird in a cage!”), the turn (“But see, the bird and cage have vanished!”), and the prestige (“The bird returns!”). What you did was the literary equivalent of cutting a woman in half and not putting her back together again.
I’m counting three possible reasons you didn’t write an ending: you are lazy, you are a coward, or you are a lazy coward. The lazy can’t be bothered to come up with an ending that is simultaneously logical and surprising, happy and realistic. The coward is afraid that his sentimental readers will be unhappy if he writes it sad, and that his snobbish readers will deride him if he writes it happy. Neither of these types has any business writing books. So either hang up your quill for good, or get up off your derrière, grow a spine, and write an ending.
Be Kind Rewrite. (Seriously. Rewrite it.)
P.S. I see on your website that Kirkus Reviews wrote “Avi guides his hero toward a final, very satisfying destiny in this wonderfully realized conclusion to the Crispin trilogy.” Fess up, that was your mother, wasn’t it?