1. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Ambiguous Endings

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mantha Hendrix, May 16, 2010.

    What are your opinions on this, my current book will have a slightly ambiguous ending...

    It's made very clear that it can only go down two paths however, and I feel choosing one would do the whole book an injustice.

    What do you guys think...
     
  2. Elvis
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    Elvis Member

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    Without knowing your story, I really can't say for sure. If you think that's really the way to go, then maybe it is.

    But generally speaking, I as a reader hate ambiguous endings. To me it feels like a cop-out. You didn't have the guts to pick and ending, and so you went with no ending.

    But even if it's not a cop-out, the point remains, if you take me on a long journey and don't give me a payoff at the end, I'm going to be very pissed off.

    If I follow you every step of the way for three, four, five hundred pages, and you don't give me an ending -- and a good one, at that -- I'm going to be upset.

    But again, I don't know your story. Maybe it depends on exactly how ambiguous it ends. If it leaves me wondering but still resolves the main conflict, that might be okay. It's not necessarily bad to leave the reader wondering, to write a story that haunts and stays with the reader, as long as the conflict is resolved.

    But like I said, if your ending is so ambiguous as to not really resolve anything, I'd probably throw your book across the room and never read anything you wrote ever again.

    EDIT: Just my two cents, BTW. Other readers, I'm sure, have their own opinions.
     
  3. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    It also depends on whether or not you plan on having a sequel. A slightly ambiguous ending might be allowed by your readers if a sequel will come later.
     
  4. Gingerbiscuit
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    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

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    A lot of it is going to depend on your reader and the rest on your ability as a writer. Certain people need to be spoon-fed everything in the story and will find it very frustrating if they have to work anything out or decide anything for themselves.

    You will find though that some people will get a lot more from a novel if they are left to use their imagination for certain things. It involves them on a far more emotional level and they will become much more a part of the journey. You have to use a very soft touch on this of course because the reader will still need enough to keep pulling them in.

    If you look at the Blair Witch Project as an example (not a novel I know but it's the only well known example I could think of)
    Some people came out of the cinema feeling robbed and cheated because they have very definite expectations from a movie. They are there to be entertained and this movie would have failed for them on every count.

    But there were a handful of people with a good imagination who would have spent the whole movie filling in gaps for themselves, asking themselves "what's going on?" and coming up with answers that were frightening to THEM. These people were utterly terrified by the movie.

    If you were able to tailor your novel to suit this second market then I believe you could produce a very succesful piece of creative, involving the reader on the highest possible level.

    But it ain't going to be easy ;)
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    You have to keep in mind that there has to be some kind of resolution of conflicts even when the ending is ambiguous.
     
  6. Meliha
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    Meliha Member

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    I think it depends on your story. My book has somewhat of an ambiguous ending because it's based on real life and I don't know what will happen and that too is part of the story - I hope I will make the reader part of the 'event/s' and hence not knowing what the future will turn into is the real ending; will the worst happen or will the dreams/hopes come true - this is the real state, and , hence, part of the story.

    Sometimes, you leave the ending 'ambiguous' because the point of your story is not the main character, but something else - I think Gone with the Wind has this: 'after all tomorrow is another day' is hardly a resolution; it's a hope at best. So it really depends on your story. I'd say crime novels without a resolution are not a good idea, but everything else could be worked on.
     
  7. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I don't agree..... to give who killed whom may be the resolution of a crime novel... but the ending can be left ambiguous.... as in whether he was actually convicted and put behind bars or not.... may be in a sequel we can show him to be somehow free and is killing again.

    This is what I mean when I said there has to be some kind of resolution of conflicts even when the ending is left ambiguous. I don't think the readers will mind such ambiguity.
     
  8. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    My ending is close to what you're saying yours is Meliha...

    I feel that I have definitely made it clear what the two choices are, and feel the character would have a hard time choosing between them, it's not a sopranos ending, and pretty much everything pertaining to other characters has been resolved.

    EDIT: and gingerbiscuit, I think I fall into the latter selection of Blair witch viewers... I found it utterly terrifying because I over thought it a bit...
     
  9. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Ambiguous endings are good as long as you understand exactly what you're doing - cutting off the possibility for a sequel, for example.

    The ending to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is hilarious. See it if you can.
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure the disposition of the killer is necessary in a crime novel. Nor do I think not including it makes a novel's ending more or less ambiguous. If the focus of the story is in the 'whathappened/whodunnit' then the 'what'snext' is irrelevant to the greatest extent, if not entirely.
     

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