1. I. R. Writer.
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    I. R. Writer. New Member

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    Inconclusive storylines: unfair or beneficial?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by I. R. Writer., Sep 3, 2013.

    My story features three brothers stitched-up for a large supply of marijuana gone missing, leaving them indebted to a drugs gang, and having to come up with the money owed. I have several characters in mind, and assumptions from the brothers to whom could have swindled them. I know exactly who is behind it, but the brothers fail to find that out, and with them, I want the reader to feel that air of mystery, and come up with their own conclusion.

    Therefore, would you consider it unfair to the reader if one of the main mysteries of the story were to remain unresolved, or could it be beneficial allowing the reader to use their own imagination?
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    The story needs an ending of some sort. It doesn't necessarily have to be the solution of the mystery, but if you (they) spend a lot of time looking for it, you'll have to give the readers something. It won't be as easy as giving an answer, and some readers will probably be disappointed anyway, but I believe it could be done.
     
  3. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Consider the ending of Polanski's "China Town": the narrative ends despite several storylines being left unresolved and characters left hanging in mid-air - there is a feel of unfulfillement, but not of "betrayal" - the narrative concludes where other narratives might commence.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Allan Drury spent four novels in a series building to a climax, then couldn't decide how to end it. So, he wrote two different endings, but one of those, he couldn't decide how to end, either. Major letdown. Then again, only the very first novel in the series was any good, and that was before we knew there would be a series.

    To paraphrase Mae West, fairness has nothing to do with it. It's all about a quality story.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love mysteries and personally, I would loathe the story that deprives me of the solution to the central mystery. Small subplots can remain unresolved, though, if there's a point to be made or a part of a serial.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you would somehow have to make clear, before the ending comes along, that the solution to the mystery is unimportant, that it's not the point of the novel. If the reader arrives at the end honestly believing the solution is important, then he or she will feel cheated and abused (not too strong a word, I think) if the writer does not provide it.
     
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  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Lady or the Tiger. No conclusion. That is the point of that particular story, leaving the reader to speculate after the story ends.

    If you leave a story hanging, do so for a purpose. Then it is all up to how well you accomplished your purpose.
     
  8. I. R. Writer.
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    I. R. Writer. New Member

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    It is rather small scale compared to the larger picture, yet it is what sets in motion major events, and whenever I consider resolving it for the reader I feel it does not belong, and does more harm than good to what I believe to be realism. I am going to attempt the story by leaving that scenario unanswered, and if I feel it needs including afterwards I’m thinking of writing a minor story at the end from the P.O.V of who is behind it.

    I appreciate everyone’s word of advice, and thank you all.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are interested in crime fiction, Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian crime writer, has a main detective's partner killed in the first book, and it takes until the third to resolve that puzzle. Needless to say, it keeps being relevant to the plot, but the main plot, each book's murder, is resolved every time.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps the swindlers are simply the MacGuffin of your story...
     
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  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what one can get away with in a brilliantly conceived/written/directed/acted film, is not necessarily what on can get away with in a novel by a new and unknown writer...

    and it was robert towne's screenplay that set the narrative, polanski 'only' directed it...
     
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  12. I. R. Writer.
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    I. R. Writer. New Member

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    Crime fiction just happens to be my genre of choice, both in reading and in writing, and I have been meaning to sample a different author. I will take a gander at his webpage. Thank you.
     
  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @mammamaia mamamia This is a constantly repeated argument that I just can't wrap my head around.

    When you say that there are some things that a "well-known" author can "get away with" (but a "new" author can't) , you are basicaly saying that that something (be it a narrative technique, a theme or something as mundane as font choice) is IN FACT wrong (from whichever angle you look upon it) BUT you /the publishing industry/ the reader is willing to look away from, or ignore when it comes from an established author...

    Sorry, but it just doesn't sound right... It's like advicing a young writter NOT to read and learn from well-known names, but only accept from and mimic mediocre authors... I always tell my students to try and be better than their "parents", change what they don't like and accept, incorporate and improve on things they like...
     
  14. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    As long as you don't make it a crime/mystery novel, I see no problem in it (if you did make it one of these genres, readers will expect a conclusion). And I believe you can let it hang, but as Cogito said, let it have a purpose. If you wrap up the subplots and other character conflicts to a known and satisfying conclusion, there is no reason why you can't let the main plot hang. It makes readers think, "Who could it be?" Having everything spelled out to readers can sometimes be dull.

    If I read your book, I would be a little disappointed at first, sure, but before long I would see why you did it.

    Make it have purpose, and you're good. :)
     
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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bb...
    ...you're putting words in my mouth/fingers that i wouldn't necessarily use... while not all things i refer to that way are 'wrong' i wouldn't do so if they weren't at least 'not generally done' and/or 'not likely to be acceptable' to the majority of venues the writer may be submitting the work to, if the writer is new and unknown...



    ...sorry, but that makes no sense to me... you seem to be contradicting yourself... and if you are a teacher of any writing-related subject, i hope your spelling is better in class [no offense intended, but as an editor and writing tutor, i just can't ignore 'advicing' and 'writter']

    ...and i tell mine that if they want to maximize their work's chances of being accepted by agents and publishers, instead of limiting them, then they'd be best off sticking to what most agents/publishers will find 'acceptable' until they've become so well known and successful that their departures from the norm won't matter...
     
  16. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    so, basically, your advice to young writers could be summarized as "keep a low profile"?
     
  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    and sorry love, but touchscreens and typing are a bad combo - noticed those double Ts too late and don't care for editing now... and for that matter, you don't care for capitalization and use too much elipse in your posts, but you don't see me complaining) :) -and english's also far from my mother's tongue, so the fact you can only find a few spelling errors there really busts my confiddence :D

    That said, I wasn't putting anything in your ...mouth? I was just elaborating on what you wrote. The meaning of the idiom "to get away with something" is "to do something and not get punished" ...a question of morale, isn't it? So, there is a definite NO-NO there, considering legitimate parts of storytelling.. Note that we are talking here abou the necessity to resolve all major issues (mysteries) within the scope of the narrative or, in other words, should every thread be concluded explicitly or could one leave something for the reader to ponder upon after he/she/it closes the book.
     

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