Monday, January 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye Gracefully

by Evelyn David

I've always been intrigued by the paranormal (see our Brianna Sullivan series), so when Medium, a television series about a psychic who assists the Phoenix, Arizona police department debuted in 2005, I was quickly hooked. I followed the series from NBC, who cancelled it after five years, to CBS, who cancelled it last month. I looked forward to the series finale with a combination of sadness and anticipation of how they would wrap it all up. Sigh. What I got last Friday night was an unholy mess. *Spoilers Ahead*

Multiple time jumps, fake dreams, an airplane crash, a Mexican drug cartel, cars exploding, eight years of amnesia, seriously there wasn't a cliché they missed. There were moments when I expected Bobby Ewing to come out of the shower and tell Alison that all her dreams were just that Рdreams and not psychic revelations. Even the last few seconds in the episode where Alison joined Joe in the hereafter after forty-some odd years apart didn't work for me - instead of satisfaction that the couple would be together forever, it just felt like the writers were pouring salt on a wound. I didn't want to learn Joe died and missed his kids growing up. I didn't want to know Alison had to spend more years without him than she'd had with him. I didn't particularly want to know about the kids' grandchildren. I'd much rather have seen another episode that showed the characters doing the things they've done for the last seven years - Alison dreaming her dreams and waking up Joe in the middle of the night, Joe struggling to earn a living, and the kids fighting around the breakfast table. I wanted more of the same. Even if the series was cancelled, I wanted to be able to keep the family alive - well and happy - in my imagination.

Which got me to thinking about how authors treat the last book in a series. Lesson learned: You need to put the same amount of energy and creativity into ending a series that you put into that first book - the book where you were trying to engage readers into wanting to see more. Finales need to be respectful of both the characters and the audience. Do it well, and readers are anxious to read new books and new series you present. Do it poorly, and the bitter taste can wipe out all your earlier hard work.

J.K. Rowling understood the Herculean task she faced in ending the Harry Potter saga. While some readers might quibble with the length and events of the seventh book, most were extremely satisfied that she not only gave a powerful climactic battle between the forces of good and evil (the recurrent theme in all seven books), but she also provided an epilogue that gave a glimpse into the future of the main characters that her audience had grown to love. She didn't ignore the harsh realities of the world she had created, and in fact, killed off several beloved characters. But to her credit, she was respectful in her treatment of their deaths and their demises made sense in the context of the storyline.

Ending a series is never easy for authors or fans. Fans will always expect more than the writers can give. They don't want the series to end so any ending is often less than satisfactory. Most authors love the characters they've created and the line between fiction and a place at the kitchen table is mighty thin. Both halves of Evelyn David talk about Mac, Rachel, Brianna, and even Whiskey the Irish wolfhound, as if they were extended members of the Dossett and Borden families. So when we decide, if we ever decide, that it's time to bring a series to a close, we know what we need to do and what we absolutely shouldn't do. In the meantime, we're still enjoying their adventures and plan to continue plotting murder and mayhem with them.

Stiletto Faithful: what finales, in books or television series, did you think were handled well? Which sucked?
Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake - Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books - Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords


  1. I totally agree. I loved Medium from the beginning. This is one show where the people looked like normal folks--not everyone was beautiful and perfectly shaped. The stories were great--all up to this last one. Yuk!

    What a horrid mishmash and not the least bit satisfying. Why on earth would the writers do such a thing?

    Certainly is a good lesson to all of us authors--the ending has to be as good as the rest of the series.


  2. GREAT post. I only saw parts of the Medium finale and although I was crying during that last scene, I felt the same way you did. Can't think of any series that I hated the ending of, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. :-)Maggie

  3. Thing is, your last book is like your last creme brulee, or your last trip to the beach, or your last sexual encounter. You don't always know it's your last.

  4. Yeah, what Kate said. A lot of times with series books, the author isn't the one who determines what's last (unless you're J.K. Rowling or the like--and I did so love all the HP books, too, so much so that I want to read them all again one of these, years). So it's very hard sometimes. I recently read a bestselling YA series that I adored until the final book, which totally let me down. It was frustrating. So it's a tricky business to be sure.

    TV series that let me down at the end: LOST. I still had so many questions afterward and no answers.

  5. You're right Kate and Susan, sometimes authors don't have a choice about a series ending. Of course, now, an author could always self-publish a digital finale!

    Here's hoping we all have books that end when and how we want them to!