Friday, February 17, 2023

The End - More Than Meets the Eye

More than meets the eye...

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) Wallpaper

Some of you may realize that we are approaching the end of an era: Pluto transiting in the sign of Capricorn. In a few short weeks, the most distant planet in our solar system (in astrology, Pluto is very much considered one of the major planets) will transit into the sign of Aquarius for the first time in 245 years. We can say, it's the end of an era, but in truth, it is the beginning of a new one. Just like in all stories, the end marks a fresh start. It's something to celebrate!

Welcome to the first in the 2023 series - More Than Meets the Eye

Over the course of the year, I will explore how this above statement may be true in fiction, through characters' motives and expectations, plot twists, styles and genres, writing and publishing trends, deeper psychological treasures buried within books we love and today, a look under the surface of endings.

I hope you will join me on this journey of discovery wherever it might lead.

Endings or Beginnings?

Some of these ideas and examples are taken from my 2018 post titled The End is Near.

Endings can be more than meets the eye, for multiple reasons. They have to measure up to a certain level of expectation for the genre or be criticized if they do not. They also need some level of acceptance and appreciation if the book is to be remembered in a positive light. You'd think that after 400 + pages of story, readers would consider the whole experience, but no. They walk away from the book, (TV series, play or movie,) thinking of those last moments constituting the end. They might be left pondering, cheering, crying or sneering, but The End is what often sticks with us.

For an author, a good ending means readers feel satisfied, even if profoundly sad or disturbed. They hope that they will talk about the book, passing on its intrigue by word of mouth. 

A bad ending is one where readers feel cheated, let down or worse, unmoved. They don't talk about the book or lend it to a friend. They don't even bother to throw it at the wall. It's that much of a non-event.

What Makes a Good Ending?

Feelings. Emotions. Whether comedic, tragic or fantastic, the ending needs to make readers feel. It can come out of left field at the time, but there has to be, on reflection, a sense of logic, of possibility. Good authors will seed the ending in ways readers won't see coming but later they find it makes sense. That is the perfect 'more than meets the eye' ending.

Which Kind?

There are many types of endings and some of them are tethered to a genre. Romance novels, paranormal or otherwise, have a HEA (happy ever after). Thrillers require an unsettling twist (Gone Girl). Fantasy may end with everyone receiving a medal (Star Wars) or with the goal reached, but with varying degrees of fallout (LOTR).

YA Lit is changing the rules. In the past, 'happy and optimistic' endings were considered the norm. Yet, the most important ingredient in a good ending is its honesty. It may come as a shock, but it needs to ring true to the story. I remember being disturbed by the ending in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I didn't like it, but it felt right. 

An Eclectic Group of Endings 

Some endings lines summarize; others stun. Some come full circle. Some hang us off a cliff until the next in the series; others leave us guessing. Here's a mix of some of my favourites.

"Then she bade the white horse take her through the door, leaving the snow to close in behind them and winter to obliterate any trace of her passing. - The Heir of Night, Helen Lowe

"Later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake." - Dracula, Bram Stoker

"He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance." - Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

"Are there any questions?" - The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

"She looked down and for an instant it seemed she held a ragged teddy, torn and chewed with one button eye missing, but when she blinked she saw it was only Teg’s fingers laced in her own." - Journey by NightKim Falconer

"She opened the door wide and let him into her life again." - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson

She closes her eyes again and I begin to sing softly:
'''V'la l'bon vent, v'la l'joli vent
V'la l'bon vent, ma mie m'appelle.'''
Hoping that this time it will remain a lullaby. That this time the wind will not hear. That this time - please just this once - it will leave without us." - Chocolat, Joanne Harris

"And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever." - Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

"When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love." - Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind

"Hector turns and sees me and the world around us disappears. - The November Girl, Lydia Kang

How about you? I'd love to hear your most liked, or disliked endings.


Posts in the 'More Than Meets the Eye' Series

Book Titles

The End



Styling Characters



Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Honing In On 2023 -- & Celebrating the "Band of Brothers" in Fantasy

Last year, I refeatured Having Fun with Epic Fantasy: the Band of Brothers, a post that first appeared on SF Signal

The play that coined the famous term

At the time, I considered it an interesting sidepost to 2022's What Makes A Hero? series, but in refeaturing it found I could not argue with the central premise that "the famous (Shakespeare: Henry V) quote, 'we band of brothers', speaks to the heart of epic fantasy."

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V
As also noted, the “band of brothers” appears throughout fairytale, folklore and myth, (examples included Robin Hood and His Merry Men, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, and Penthesilea and the Amazons) but also in history and in the legendary overlap between history and myth. 

LoTR's Aragorn & "not this day": note the similarity to Henry V

Arguably, King Arthur lies within that overlap, since there's reason to believe he was a real person, but almost certainly not anything like the central figure depicted in the Round Table and Holy Grail legends. 

Real historical examples include the Spartan Three Hundred (and less-mentioned allies) that died to a man at Thermopylae (480 BCE), but delayed the invading Persians long enough for the Greek states to muster and defeat the invaders by sea at Salamis, and by land at Plataea. Another, significant example is the "Sacred Band" of  Thebes, another company of three hundred comprising 150 fighting pairs who were also lovers.  

King Arthur & the Round Table: literally a 'shining company'
The King Arthur and the Round Table, the Three Hundred and Sacred Band, and the Y Goddoddin's Shining Company (celebrated by Rosemary Sutcliff in the novel of the same name) tie the "band of brothers" to epic fantasy's tradition of the quest journey and battles, usually against overwhelming odds, to save the world. 

Clearly, these traditions informs Shakespeare's famous St Crispin's Day speech on the eve of the life-and-death battle (against seemingly overwhelming odds) of Agincourtas well as the now-classic WW2 mini series about "Easy" Company of the 101st Airborne Division. 

Yet stepping beyond epic and war, the "band of brothers" metamorphoses into the "band of buddies", aka the "Scooby gang." Aside from Scooby Doo itself, the term is closely associated with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the close-knit friends that support Buffy and work together to overcome Sunnyvale's monsters. 

Consistent with the "band of brothers" tradition, the big-bads are frequently bigger and badder than Buffy, so the odds frequently feel overwhelming. At some point in the series, the argument is made that the whole reason Buffy survives longer than your average Slayer is because she has a "Scooby gang" rather than being the traditional "lone wolf." While at the last she literally has a band of Slayer sisters.J


Buffy & the original Scooby Gang

If epic fantasy's "bands of brothers" tie primarily to world-altering quests and battles, the Buffy-style  Scooby gang is far more closely related to fairytale and folklore's band of faithful friends and lovable (often animal or magical) companions met in pursuit of smaller-scale adventures. Puss in Boots is one classic example, Prince Ivan and the Wolf another. 

Yet whatever their origin or the style of tale in which they appear, Fantasy would not be the same without its "bands of brothers" and "Scooby gangs." So I'll be starting this year by focusing on some of my favourite examples from fantasy literature, as well as referencing examples from my own writing.

See you here again on March for more "band of brothers" and "scooby gang" fun. J


About The Author:

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.