About That Ending . . .


The pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson (The Grifters, The Getaway, A Hell of a Woman—and many more) said, “There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”

And to realize that truth about fiction, chances are you have to read to the end of a book. The ending is the most important part of any novel—because no one reads a book to find out what happens in the middle.

I’ve been hearing from some readers about the ending to In Flight. Specifically, the last sentence, because things were not what they seemed.

The other day, someone came up to me and told me she’d read my book. She really liked it, she said, and then she hesitated, and I could see she wanted to say something else and didn’t know how to say it, but then she figured out how to say it: “I didn’t really like the ending that much.”

Someone else told me the ending pissed him off—initially. But I’ve heard from other readers who said they loved the ending. They didn’t see it coming, were completely shocked, and loved it.

I realize readers are likely to have a strong reaction one way or the other. Obviously, I prefer if they love the ending, but I accept if they don’t. I’m never going to be the kind of writer who delivers a book everyone loves. Even as a reader, I often don’t love the books everyone else loves.

Here’s the thing about novels, movies, series, plays, and all other works of fiction: the journey is important, but it’s all about landing the plane (an appropriate metaphor for In Flight).

When I was working through early drafts of the novel, the ending I’d written was conventional, even expected, and it never felt right to me. It didn’t fit with the characters, it didn’t have the right impact, it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

As I looked deeper into the character of Robert Besch, I came up with a different ending that I believed was exactly the result I wanted. I had my new ending! But given the way the story unfolded, my new ending didn’t make perfect sense. I had to go back and rewrite everything that led up to this new ending (as Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”).

A surprise ending doesn’t work if it’s simply a surprise. It has to fit. The writer’s goal is to make the reader realize that what first appears to be a surprise ending is also the inevitable outcome when you look back along the narrative arc of the story. There must be foreshadowing, however subtle.

Did I pull it off? Only you, dear reader, can judge, and I want you to judge, so get your copy of In Flight, or if you’ve already read the novel, let me know your thoughts on the ending.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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