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Since I touched upon titles in my last post, I thought I’d talk about endings today. It was just this last week that my good neighbor Jo asked, “How do you know when to end a book?” I’ve been thinking on that – and I still don’t know the definitive answer. For me, it’s more an instinctual feeling than a specific idea that I am nearing completion of the tale.

If you’re a traditional romance author, by the end of your book, your hero and heroine have resolved all conflicts, the threads woven throughout are neatly tied up and the villains are usually dead. Seems like the appropriate time for your couple to walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand. Yes, romances tend to have a happily-ever-after ending, all rainbows and puppies and kittens. But deep in the dark recesses of my mind, I have a story that doesn’t. Is that sacrilege? Have I crossed some unknown line in the world of romance novels? Would I be banished forever into the realms of the unknown, no longer allowed to own puppies and kittens?

I do have a dark side and confess to a love of senselessly violent movies with kick-ass fight scenes. I have been known to sprinkle some of this into my own writing, and lurking just beyond sanity is the notion of a tragic ending. It intrigues me. It beckons to me.

So, how should a book end? Does everyone prefer to feel good and happy at the close of a story? Or is a good sob just as rewarding? I mean, the tragic tale of Wuthering Heights has always been one of my favorites — Katherine and Heathcliff’s heartbreaking love is truly unforgettable.

“My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”

Masterful. And it could not possibly end any other way, now could it?

Should Brit Darby consider writing a tragic ending? Or stick to the tried and true path? What do you think?