Recently I finished Far Cry 5 and to not give any spoilers I’ll just say that the ending I wanted did NOT happen. Instead I was left looking at the screen saying that it was horse shit and the most unsatisfying ending to a video game since I completed Halo 5. But, as I thought about it more I realized that the ending for the game was set up so that the player would remember it. The unsatisfying ending made it a more memorable experience and overall a better story.
An unsatisfying ending feels like a cop out at first. The knee jerk reactions are that they are setting up for a sequel or that the writers got lazy and just let the story end without resolving the conflict that incited the story. I have a different view though, as I stewed with the ending of the game I thought more about how I would remember it as a story and how those mechanics could be used to make my own stories more memorable to readers. Not all endings should be unsatisfying because then no one will read it because every reader will leave the book feeling blue balled by the lack of catharsis in the ending. They are a great thing in moderation and can be used expertly in the context of fantasy writing.
Fantasy, whether high, modern, or noir lends itself to great story telling and some great unsatisfying endings. Leading with a main character and then at the end of the book with their goals almost accomplished a supporting character swoops in, kills the main character, and completes the plan because it was his all along. Or your hero is about to slay the BBEG(Big Bad Evil Guy) but unexpectedly the BBEG pulls out some trump card and overpowers the hero leaving him either gravely wounded and unable to stop him or dead as the narrative for the BBEG continues to show him ruling over the world, realm, kingdom, or universe.
These ending moments will frustrate readers because they will come out of left field and leave them staring blankly at the page wondering what just happened and they will wonder if they wasted their time, but if done correctly then as they marinate with the ending they will start to remember it as one of the best stories they have read in their recent memory. I enjoyed the ending to Far Cry 5. Honestly, I did. After the initial frustration wore off. I will remember it as great story telling in the game even if it was a little bit railroading in the way the ending happened.
But, I am always curious as to what you guys think of unsatisfying endings. Do you like them after the frustration wear off or do you stay frustrated that you wasted your time reading a story that didn’t end the way you wanted it to. Please let me know and I will be happy to discuss either view point.
It seems pretty clear at least to me that focusing on the politics of daily life and the way the governments work is far more popular in the current fantasy mainstream. Which seems odd, at least to me, that the journey type of fantasy novel with a grand quest like the Lord of the Rings or every Dungeons And Dragons campaign would fall out to the popular eye.
My theory as to why this happened was the rise of fantasy in television. Most notably Game of Thrones. The show gave the books a huge boost in popularity making them the pinnacle of fantasy for our time. GoT is a great show and a great series of books but I think the sword and sorcery or epic quest fantasy novels are a little underappreciated currently. That may change as time goes.
I say that because from my experience with fantasy noir novels and the current tabletop renaissance going on I think more people will be looking for something closer to the stories that they are sharing with their friends at the table. Or, I am completely wrong and projecting my own wants onto the entire fantasy community. But, I am curious as a reader and writer which do you prefer. The politics of normal life or the epic quest?
Unfortunately I did not quite finish my book. I was able to make an huge amount of progress. I went from serially adding chapters to elongate the story putting myself further and further behind to knocking out close to seven chapters. The rest of the book should move quickly as I have the ideas ready and some of the chapters already written.
I may not have been able to get the book done in November due to my procrastinating nature but my hopes are that it is done before 2018.
Fantasy Noir or Hardboiled Fantasy is a niche genre but probably one of the best ones out there today. It throws away all the ideas of the grand journey and looks more toward the people on the street and investigations. My personal favorite example is the Ratcatchers series by Matt Colville. It focuses on a main character in the first book as he tries to solve something for the church he is a part of.
I think the hardboiled fantasy and the fantasy noir is the direction that main stream fantasy will go in. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and these novels rely on being punchy and short and delivering the story to you quickly as it clues you in on what’s going on in the world. It is a far cry from the 1000 manuscripts that George RR Matin takes his time to put out on the shelf. This is not to say that this style of writing is bad in any way, but I personally can barely get through the novels and I quite like them. Recently I skipped the fourth novel in the series after talking to people to find out that it had no information that was super necessary to understand what would be going on in the next book.
The longer form fantasy is still great and has seen great success over the years. With Patrick Rothfuss’ series set to become the next fantasy TV series. So this is not to say it is on it’s way out but I think over the years that Hardboiled fantasy may become just a prevalent or more so as it develops as a genre and gains more attention. If you have read any hardboiled or fantasy noir works that you think are great let me know. I am always looking for more inspiration and things to read. And, please tell me if you think that this part of the fantasy genre is going to gain steam or if you think that it is a fad that may soon die out.