Nothing is as awful as a bad ending. The ending is one of those elements crucial to a good book, for if it tells too much or wraps up too little, doesn't make sense, or takes everything off on some weird tangent, readers will be disappointed. Jung claimed that we read so that we can "practice" our own endings, so endings are especially meaningful to us as readers.
I was reminded of this as I put my kids to bed last night. Since our books are still packed, and will likely be packed for a few more weeks (ugh!), we told stories to each other. I started things out, putting together a goofy story about a purple, hair giraffe who ended up living in northern Canada. Then my son told a story in three sentences. His typical method of creating plot is establishing that something is stupid:
Once upon a time there was a red crab.
He was very stupid.
Dreadful. Naturally, I didn't tell him it was dreadful, but I my mind, buzzing about my own ending (to be written once the kids went to bed), took note of the fact that an ending which comes too quickly (and says too little) won't be satisfactory.
My daughter, not to be outdone, told a story which started out very well... a leopard who ate all his friends and had to learn non-violence if he was to not be alone in the world... but she continued the story long after the climax had occurred, carrying through for nearly ten minutes to express how he met a girl leopard, they had eight cubs, and the reformed leopard taught them how to hunt and kill (no joke). By the end even my eyes were rolling.
Again, my writing brain jotted down the reality that an ending, if too drawn out and too filled with nonessentials, could really bore the snot out of readers.
Perhaps a balance should be struck. What do you think should be in an ending? What endings do you tend to love or hate? Why?