Shop Talk: Heroes and HEAs with Brina Cary (and #Win a $10 GC)

Today, please help me welcome author Brina Cary to Preternatura. Brina has stopped by today to talk about the balance between having a strong hero and a strong ending to our favorite books.

Brina Cary is a world-weary traveler who has been to such faraway places as Guam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Jebel Ali and Bahrain through a tour in the US Navy. While growing up surrounded by poverty, Brina began to dream of the different avenues her life could take. She joined the Navy out of high school to find out what she wanted in life and have a bit of an adventure. Since then, that adventure has taken her down the road to martial arts, private investigations, forensic anthropology, financial analysis, arson investigation, Egyptian curses, myths and legends. After completing two bachelor’s degrees, Brina took time off from school to join the real world and, eventually, the pursuit of her writing dream. You can learn more about Brina by visiting her on Facebook or following her on Twitter @brina99cary.

A Hero’s Ending

by Brina Cary

Have you ever read a story and thought ‘really? That’s how they’re ending it!?!’ I have, and it certainly gets my goat. To me a good ending is as necessary as a good hero. They have to equal each other on the balance scale or it tips… If the hero is weak then the story doesn’t speak to me. There’s a difference between a hero with a flaw and a hero that isn’t really a hero. For example, Eliot Spencer from Leverage. Now he’s a hero with brute strength, but doesn’t like guns because of a tortured past doing questionable wet work. That’s the kind of hero that speaks to me. That’s the kind of hero that makes me go “oh, yeah, this is gonna be good.” This is a man that’s sexy, strong, and kindhearted.

When I pick up a book I look for those same characteristics.

I want a sexy story with a strong subject/plot. I also want the ending to be sappy and kind. Honestly, a ‘hero’ that’s whiny doesn’t do it for me. It makes me feel like the author is writing the characteristics of people they don’t like into their hero, which, in turn makes me root for the bad guy. It’s the same way if I start reading a story that doesn’t live up to my expectations. It can appear to be the best story in the entire world… then I get to the end and the Happily Ever After doesn’t make sense or is non-existent. It makes it seem as if the author got bored, so they just ended it. That makes me glad the story is over, but I feel cheated.

As readers we shouldn’t be cheated. We should be able to read the stories we love and know that they’re going to work out in the end. The heroes should be heroes that makes us swoon. The stories should make us feel like we got away from the bad part of our lives just for a little while. I know I’d definitely like to get away from paying bills, doing the 9-to-5 grind, and planning multiple meals. If I’m getting away from all that for a bit then I definitely deserve a sexy, strong, and kindhearted hero in an equally sexy and strong story. For me, if one is weak then the other will fall. 

Thanks, Brina! This all comes back to the old character-driven story versus plot-driven story, and how it takes a balance of both plot and character to make a successful book. But characters are more important–and I say that as an author who considers herself plot-drive. I come up with the plot first, and then I populate it with characters. But if those characters aren’t three-dimensional, it’s a failure.

BUT, having said that, beginnings and endings are right up there with flawed heroes and characters we want to pull for, and endings need a resolution. It’s tricky with series. I always try to wrap up the main external plotline in the book’s ending, while also leaving open the questions that will need to be addressed in the next series book. Big cliffhanger endings? They drive me nuts.

What about you? What makes you put down a book first–characters who don’t engage you, or a plot that doesn’t engage you? And have you read a book ending that made you want to punch your fist through a wall? (For me, it will be forever the “Who’s at the door” ending in one of the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum books. I never quite forgave her for that.)

Leave a comment to win a $10 gift card to your online retailer of choice. (If international, an equivalently priced Book Depo book will be substituted.)

35 thoughts on “Shop Talk: Heroes and HEAs with Brina Cary (and #Win a $10 GC)

  1. If the characters engage me as a reader, I’m willing to overlook slow plots, but lack of engagement can lead to my losing interest very quickly! And I agree about the endings. I hate cliffhangers. Also an author killing off an important character can make me stop reading a series (a certain vampire series killed off the the male vampire and that was IT for me, ditto for when the author brought him back. Dead is dead, darn it! And I’m not talking about Kim Harrison.)

    • Lol, cliffhangers drive me nuts! It’s great to have an opening into another story, but when I’m sitting there going “where’s the rest of it” it makes me not want to read the next part. The only thing that’s worse is killing off a main character. I’ve actually been known to shout choice words when that happens. 🙂

    • Sandy, I’m the same way. That’s the quickest way to get me to put down a book… If the characters don’t speak to me then I get bored or annoyed quickly and flip to the last chapter… 🙂

  2. I have a bad habit of forcing myself to finish a book, even if I am over it and not liking it. I can’t leave things unfinished, but I will drag it out and read one page a day if I am really not liking it. lol that’s a little weird but it doesn’t seem right to leave a story unfinished and it will bug me. The one thing that will make me not like a book is the characters. If they fall flat or if the their chemistry feels forced or if I don’t feel it all then the whole book is ruined for me. The story wont pull me in and then I am just reading the words and not forming that movie in my head. Though I always finish a book, if it’s the first in the series and I did not enjoy the way the characters were written and wasn’t into the authors writing, I wont pick up the rest of the series. Characters are more important to me than plots. Plots pull me in but the characters are what hook me.

    • Jolene and Family, I love it when you talk about the words forming a movie in your head. I see books the same way! If I can’t picture it as I’m reading it then I lose track of where I’m at. It makes for an even better story when I can “see” it. I end up finishing a book with a smile on my face when I’ve watched it come alive.

  3. Lots of interesting topics. I read a lot of series. And so I read a lot of books that either have cliffhangers or endings that aren’t resolved. Part of me dislikes a cliffhanger. Because I mostly read books as they come out. And so to wait a year is pure torture. But if the cliffhanger is done well then it can be exciting. So i don’t totally oppose them.

    Actual series endings are another matter. I get that it is hard to please everyone. So I know I might not get my idea ending. As long as it works with the story and stays true to the characters then I can often deal with the endings.

    I can only think of a handful of books where I’ve been really unhappy with the endings. Sometimes if an author kills off a favorite character or makes a character do something you don’t think they would do… well it gets upsetting as a reader.

    jlkalman26 at gmail dot com

    • Jennifer, by the time I get through the first three chapters in a story I have an idea of how I want it to end. There’s very few times that I’m surprised, but I definitely love a surprise ending… even if it’s not my ideal ending. The worst ending I’ve ever read was when the two main characters were thrown to the side in the second to last chapter, to make room for two brand new characters for the next book. It was like my ideal ending, or any satisfying ending, was just thrown by the way to make room for the next book. I’m curious though, what kind do authors have characters do that you don’t like? I’ve read some books where the characters seem to become different people all together at the end, despite the “growth” factor associated with stories. I’ve also read one where the main character became evil in the last chapter. Lol, that really upset me. 🙂

  4. stop reading if the characters are boring and the writing drags on

    not interested in buying/reading any more books from an author where the book ends in a cliffhanger, there’s no HEA, and the heroine was one of the worst I ever read; plus, the author doesn’t warn you in advance the book is the first in a series

  5. Mostly I put down a book if the story doesn’t capture my attention. Characters depend on a lot of different factors. I think a book should end with at least some closure, a hit of the future for the couple or the ending of this particular battle, never ever cut off abruptly with no answers at all unless the next book comes out tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Eva, I definitely like it when they hint at a future for the couple!! That further brings the story to life for me. It makes me grin like a fool knowing that they’re going to be happy. 🙂

  6. The characters have to engage me and there has to be some resolution to the plot. I once read 3 books in a series and when I finished the last book I couldn’t believe the limp end. I was unhappy with the resolution of the book and the series!

  7. The characters have to come first to me. I’ve read some books where I wondered if they had come to the end of their word count and just done a stupid ending. It as if they only get 300 pages, look down and discover they are on page 295 and just cobble together an ending. Grrrr! My dislike for cliffhanger endings is large, also.

    • Susan, I giggled at reading your comment on word count!! I’ve wondered the same thing! I asked an author about it once though. She told me that her editor cut the end of her book. I never knew they did that until then…

  8. i hate big cliffhanger!!! ( especially when you must wait YEARS for next book i mean that’s not respecting teh reader at all)

    now if i don’t connect to the character and the plot is really not working for me i won’t continue a series but so far i always finished the book i started

  9. YES! All the time. Sometimes the book can be fantastic up to 90% of it and the last 10% just feels rushed/flimsy. I gripe about that and also unnecessary sequels where the story could have been tightened and wrapped up in book 1 instead of spending 80% of book 2 just going around doing stuff for the sake of making the length longer.

    Unless the plot is completely absurd/takes a strange turn, I’m usually fine with overlooking most of it as long as the characters are likable. I discovered this year that I was a character reader and the plot/world building can take a backseat to that.

    • Lol, Lynn, I once read a book where an alien invasion came out of the middle of nowhere… I’m still trying to figure out how in the world that one got thrown in there. 🙂

  10. I totally agree about the Stephanie Plum lol. I’m a little of both. I need characters I can connect with and a plot and story line that keeps me interested. Stagnant plots that drag on and on will instantly cause a DNF. I also can’t stand series that go on and on with no real answers or growth.

    • Steph, you’re right about stagnant plots. I need a plot that moves. It’s fine if they want to cover a topic, but to continually harp on that same topic, or remain at that same place in the plot, bores me. I think there’s a few authors that are still trying to work at introducing character flaws by way of story sidelines. I know there’s a fine line, based off of reader’s preferences, on exactly how to cover the back story. However, after a while the back story just gets distracting. That’s one of the reasons why I loved Ten Little Indians. The plot moved pretty quickly, but you don’t really know who is the murderer until the very end. That was very satisfying to me. 🙂

  11. With both books and movies, if I don’t believe the characters could be real people, very early in the game, I’ll walk away quickly.

    • Carl, that’s one of the reasons why I love Leverage. I actually know a few people that couple pull off some of the stuff they did in that show. Their writers also did a pretty good job, in my opinion, of making them likeable. There are some shows/books to where you just don’t see them that way. I want to be able to look at the heroes and feel happy/sad/etc for them as I learn about their lives… what made them become the characters that they are, flaws and all.

  12. It’s kind of a balance for me. If the characters don’t engage me soon enough, and the plot is slow or not very engaging, I may quit reading it. The characters (and their interactions) can make a slow or not-very-engaging plot worth reading, but you don’t always get to know the characters before the plot wears on you or turns you off.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. The interactions can assist the plot in ways that we may not predict. For example, if you’re reading a story that doesn’t have lots of side stories or subplots then the interactions between characters can help draw you in by making the story seem more real. Instead of a trip to the marketplace for milk a character could meet a friend they haven’t seen in 30 years and end up stopping a spy from delivering a top secret message by accident. It also comes into play if you’re reading a story about two main characters. If they only have one conversation before they go their separate ways then you don’t feel as if they click as characters. The interactions, for me, make them seem like real characters.

  13. Either can make me give up on a book… I have to engage with one or more of the characters and the story has to pull me in somehow. AND, on cliffhangers, I hate them! IF an author’s book stops with a cliffhanger, I would think twice before reading more from that author. It’s not quite as terrible if the next book is already available… but I don’t like them. I understand that the author wants the reader to want to read the next book, but a good author has engaged the reader in the story and a cliffhanger ending is not needed.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. I have a habit of reading the ending of the book first before I read the book. It is habit of mine that several of my English teachers have been trying to break me of. I need a good ending. If the ending is just plain stupid, I won’t read the book.

  15. I don’t stop reading a book very often, but one I recall I just couldn’t continue with because it was just so nonsensical, didn’t engage my interest in any way, and I couldn’t stand the characters. Just a really bad book and I took it out and threw it in the trash. I have read books where I wasn’t too happy with the ending, but nothing so bad that made me want to punch the wall. 😀

  16. Characters that I can’t connect with and a story line that just drags on and makes me actually dread reading will make me put down a book, although I will try everything to stick with it.

  17. There have been several things that made me put a book down & are related I think: writing style, characters that I could not connect to, a bad plot.
    I read a fantasy book/series some years ago that I absolutely loved. Until the end where the writer killed off the hero which I felt was a major cop out. The plot was getting complicated & killing him off made it a lot easier rather than try to entangle the situation that existed. I wasn’t happy to put it mildly.

  18. I think that it’s the characters that I don’t connect with that will cause me to skip around or skim the book. Also, writing style affects me too. Good endings are so important to me too. I feel disappointment or let down if the ending is too abrupt, odd or open ended.

  19. The plot must grab hold of me or I will let it go. Characters are very important, but I will give them time to grow on me. The plot needs to hold me from page one.

    I like my endings to be tidy. I don’t need a HEA, just don’t leave me hanging.

  20. I have always thought of myself as reading a book for the story, a HEA is not that important to me. But at the same time, I need to be able to like the characters I am reading about, and I really need a strong heroine in my book. If she is TSTL, I probably won’t finish it. I hate cliffhangers that make the book unfinished, broken in half, but I don’t mind cliffhangers that just makes you want to read the next one asap. When warned about it, I will probably wait with reading the books till I have a few on my shelves.

  21. I really need to connect with a character in a book. I will never dream of leaving a book unfinished but if I don’t like the characters in a book, I usually give the book away.

  22. If the characters are whiny or annoying or if there’s a lot of cheating I tend to put a book down. Same for me for endings. I like my endings neatly wrapped up.