When I start writing I don’t always have the end of the story very clearly in my mind, and that is part of the joy for me, that the ending can be a surprise to me too. However, I have to ensure that I finish with a satisfactory full stop because there is nothing worse than a feeble or lazy conclusion to a novel.
I work really hard to make the last few pages of my book exciting, revealing something hidden, solving the puzzle, explaining the mystery. What I find really annoying in a book, is when the puzzle is solved by the introduction of something completely new, a long lost sister, an unrealistic affair, an unexpected fortune that smooths out the problems and difficulties of the characters. To make the climax believable within the context of the fiction I have created, clues and hints have to be seeded throughout the book so that the reader will think, of course! I should have realised when X said that to Y that there was a double meaning. Or silly me, he was in the market on the very day the vegetable stall was blown up. There has to be a few red herrings of course, but not the sort that end up quietly rotting away leaving a tell-tale aroma so the reader thinks, but what did happen to the Palomino horse? How did it end up in the tree, and more to the point, how did it get down again to be back in its stable by midnight?
Characters… at the end of the book the reader must not be too disappointed by what happens to a favourite character… if the character has been with the reader for a few hundred pages they don’t want him or her to fizzle out with an unrealistic marriage or a sudden departure to foreign climes. I am often devastated by the death of the main character and feel cheated… I know everyone must die, even fictitious everyones, but can’t that happen off stage once the book is closed and back on the shelf? What is almost worse is when the author falls in love with a character and becomes too familiar and over indulgent; sadly some great authors have fallen for some great characters and kept them alive beyond their sell-by date. I don’t mean that the character should die necessarily but there comes a time when he or she runs out of steam. Ian Rankin and Graham Hurley have both had long running characters starring in a series of books; both have released them in a realistic way before the reader got bored… or the author did!
I haven’t written a sequel to any of my books and although one or two characters do reappear they are not always named and maybe only I will know who the taxi driver in my recently completed first draft is. My completely fictitious settings however do recur; my novels are set along the coast of an unnamed area of Britain; the main city is Strand but much of the action takes place in the little seaside town of Easthope, in the grimmer industrialised town of Castair, and the little villages of Hope, Opal Harbour, Oak and Bethel. A major setting for my first novel, is of course, the eponymous FARHOLM. Any real places with the same names are not the ones in my work!