I find the finale of things fascinating. On television, some series finales are planned well in advance and some happen just because a show gets cancelled unceremoniously. Whatever the reason, all series (books, movies, television) come to an end eventually. The important thing is how well the creator planned for that eventuality and how well it flows together.
Take Star Trek: The Next Generation. The finale of that series is handled in such a way that you find that the entirety of the series was a test that began in the very first episode. Q, who appeared in that first episode, told the crew of the Enterprise that their trial was not over and he would be watching them. He showed up in the blockbuster finale with one final test of the Enterprise crew’s worth.
Contrast that with Seinfeld. In Seinfeld, the finale was turned into an opportunity for a meandering clip show that brought back popular characters from throughout the series. Was it mildly entertaining? Yes. Could it have been better? I think so. Imagine what it would have been like if the plane they were on had crashed instead of landing safely for repairs. You could have killed off all the characters in a tragic and memorable episode, and you could have irreverently poked fun of the afterlife or nostalgically recalled incidents from the past. They could have been stranded on an island and become Gilligan and company, which would have allowed for even more comedic folly.
Now compare the two of those to The Greatest American Hero or the original Star Trek. Both of those series ended abruptly after several seasons with no warning and no fanfare. Viewers of Star Trek were left with the unpleasantness that is Turnabout Intruder for their final taste of Trek. Viewers of the Greatest American Hero have to swallow the bitter pill that is Ralph and Bill being told they are a special team and being sent back for more work just before the series is cancelled.
All of these have convinced me that I should never start a project such as a book series until I know what the end will be. When I sat down to write The Vergrinn War, I knew what the climax of the fifth and final installment would be. I knew what the beginning and end of each book would be. I knew who will live and who will die (and yes, folks will die). I have even arranged with a good friend (who is one of my beta readers) to have the series finished should I die before I can finish it (how’s that for morbid?). He has a copy of my outlines for the fourth and fifth books and has promised me that if I kick the bucket, he will make sure that they get written.
While the beginning of a book or series draws folks in, the conclusion is the reader’s reward for their efforts. Can you shock them one last time? Can you make them laugh or cry? Can you make them want to stand up and cheer? Will you make them curse your name? I imagine my conclusion will cover all of those bases with some readers. What’s the best or worst finale you’ve ever encountered?