Sunday, March 11, 2012

Changing the Ending

In a book I am listening to by Carolyn Parkhurst (THE NOBODIES ALBUM), her protagonist is a writer who with her eighth book decides to change the endings of her first seven books.

I think this would be a great exercise for writers-go back to an early story and change the ending and maybe we can do it sometime.

But it made me think: in what novel/movie would you change the ending ?


Charlieopera said...

What a great idea (really)! Just the thought process alone is worth pursuing (the wheels turn faster than one would think, I think).

I just watched a few really terrific movies on netflix (Elegy, Incendiary, The Burning Plain, Red Road) ... not sure I would change any of them, but it's intriguing to think about.

Two I'd never change are No Country for Old Men or Seven ... they remain chilling enough to not touch.

Anonymous said...

One that jumps out immediately in my mind is THE POET by Michael Connelly, a book I really liked until that extra twist ending. It ruined the book for me.

Most of the Coen brothers movies have ending problems, as in they have no real ending (Raising Arizona for one).

But since many readers have a problem remembering books anyway I think it would drive them nuts to reread something and think, "is this right? I don't remember it ending like that."

Jeff M.

Deb said...

John Fowles's THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN has two endings: The ending we would expect from a Victorian novel and the ending we would expect from a 20th century novel. I'm not sure that's really playing fair with the reader: Choose an ending and end it!

Now for a SPOILER: If I could change the ending of any book it would be Henry James's THE TURN OF THE SCREW. I would allow Miles to live--but I suppose that would rob the book of all of its meaning.

Mike Dennis said...


Of course, we all know that Hollywood changed the ending of the Jim Thompson novel to a feelgood, gooey Ali-MacGraw-type ending. I would change it back to the way the novel ended.

But then, I guess it probably couldn't be filmed.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's the trouble when you get into this. Do we want Gatsby to live? Does changing an unhappy ending to please us ruin a book rather than improve it.
And, of course, movies that change endings usually make them worse-Witness I AM LEGEND, which ended perfectly and with a great message. The movie's ending had no message except that violence is useful.
I wish netflix would allow me to rejoin for less than $12 a movie.

Dan_Luft said...

I have found that the very act of writing is like reading one of those old "Choose Yor Own Adventure" books from the 80s. Every scene opens up possibilities I hadn't planned or realized.

The only book that comes to mind is also one of the few books I've thrown across the room. Horace McCoy's "No Pockets in a Shroud" isn't a very good book but the ending devolves into Communist agitprop. I remember saying to myself reading the last chapter - Oh my God, it actually got worse.

And the movie "Jules and Jim." All three characters seemed to go kinda crazy in the last 20 minutes of the film.

Dorte H said...

How embarrassing. I´m sure I agreed with someone that a great book had a very disappointing ending the other day, but do you think I can remember which one?

Unless it is totally hopeless, I don´t mind too much as I often forget the ending (who did it) very soon. What I remember is the setting, the characters and the impression the book made on me.

YA Sleuth said...

Jeff is right--the Coen movies could use an alternate ending a lot of the time.

I hated how SEVEN ended. I know why they did it, but still... I like some kind of silver lining around the cloud.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good question. the best I ever saw was how the movie changed the ending to Stephen King's Novella, "The Mist." I change the endings of my short stories all the time when I republish them.

le0pard13 said...

No question. Pulling off Frank Darabont's ending for 'The Mist'. I'd leave intact Stephen King's ending from that novella, even open ended as it was. FB's bleak, gut-punch of a finish didn't exactly make sense as the protagonist's situation did not warrant it, and just seemed like an attempt to 'out-King' Stephen King.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't know how to change the ending of any of my novels. My characters take over the story, and I am an observer and chronicler, not a puppetmaster. So the endings don't rise from anything I am or do or believe. Critics complain that my endings are inevitable, without surprise, and that is exactly correct. I will not intervene.

Ron Scheer said...

Pretty much all of them.

J F Norris said...

Any crime drama where the main character wakes up and the whole damn thing turned out to be a dream. Hate that! In the 1940s there were about ten movies with that ending over a span of five years. I blame the screen adapters of The Wizard of Oz for starting that idiotic trend that continued all the way into the 1980s with that moronic "Dallas" episode. Though there have been some hysterical spoofs of the "it was all a dream" motif in years gone by. Remember the last episode of "Newhart" where he wakes up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette? That was classic!