1. struggler
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    struggler Member

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    Leaving questions unanswered?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by struggler, Mar 9, 2013.

    So, in my novel I deliberately left several questions without solid answers. The purpose of which was to leave what happened up to the readers interpretation.

    I've never liked spoon-feeding people every detail about everything. I like some questions to remain unanswered. Is it normal for people to not want to think for themselves? Or is there a particular way to go about leaving ambiguity in ones story?

    Thanks.
     
  2. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I feel like I've met a kindred spirit :D I love to leave things open to interpretation despite their being a definitive answer I already know. I'm reminded of the Sopranos episode where Paulie and Chris chase a Russian through the woods and after a headshot he gets BACK UP and keeps running. At the episode's end we don't know what happened to the Russian, its completely open and the possibilities are endless and the story truly never ends

    Also never assume your readers are dumb unless you're writing an instruction manual. Let them think if that's what you want.
     
  3. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Basically, it all depends on the type of questions that you are leaving unanswered. Are they deep questions that merely make the reader ponder about life and stuff? or are they more focused on the destiny of someone in the story or the aftermath of a battle? Because there's a big difference between the two.

    Take for example the movie 'Inception' the ending in there is open to two interpretations: he got home safe, or, he was dreaming all along. the unanswered question doesn't affect how we see the movie, we like it and we probably watch it again but imagine if that movie was cut in the middle and we were left to wonder whether the whole things worked out or not. We'd be more confused and frustrated than taken by surprise or made to think for our own.

    So before you leave anything unanswered in your story, make sure it doesn't provoke confusion but rather makes the reader think and say: 'Ah, it could be this or this, but either way that was a solid one.'
     
  4. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Readers (Well, I do) always like some ambiguity in a story...Maybe a bit of an open end. (For example, leaving it open whether my MC got back with his girlfriend at the end or not...from what the readers learnt about the characters, they can form their own interpretation.) But not too much to make the reader feel 'cheated' or like most things weren't answered.
     
  5. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    As Henry Louis Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public".
    There will always be some that will like an open ending that leaves them with a few unanswered questions. But if you plan to get published, most of the readers you will be marketing your novel to will not always be so kind. Leaving many questions unanswered may be considered bad writing, half-baked concept or even plain laziness on your part. You want to be careful to leave no question integral to your story unanswered.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Never treat your readers as stupid, and you will have smarter readers.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The major questions need to be answered (I once read a murder mystery and they never revealed the killer - guess who refuses to buy the previously unannounced sequel?). But not everything needs to be tied up in a neat little bow at the end either.
     
  8. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    The trick is providing enough clues that readers can figure it out if they've been paying attention.
     

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