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Loose ends: love 'em or hate 'em
Marc Poliquin
Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2012 8:29 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


What do you think of loose ends in novels? Do you want complete and total closure, or do you like to be left a little room to speculate what kind of life the characters go on to have after the words: The End.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012 5:17 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


Nice question. I must respond.

With my short story training, I like loose ends. Tying everything together can totally ruin it for me. Now, I'm not talking big stuff hanging out there like some guy who just got pantsed. I'm talking about little things that are mentioned and may not be key enough to a story to warrant explaining. Like, the MC lives, but his house is destroyed. Do I really need to know if he bought a new one or not if it isn't necessary? No. It's fun to speculate what he might do. Is he crashing on his brother's couch?

The little stuff is good. Big things a huge no, no.
Maria Granovsky
Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012 5:44 PM
Joined: 1/10/2012
Posts: 28


It depends on the genre and the loose end. Nothing drives me around the bend faster than a mystery or a thriller that suddenly decides to go all artsy and experimental, leaving the reader to come up with the ending for oneself. I feel cheated and that my time has been wasted. 

But even in a mystery, I'm OK with loose ends that are not central to the plot (for example, if one is left to speculate on the romantic relationship between the main characters, or whether the MC is relocating or staying put).

In other genres, I sometimes like the guessing game and the need to supply my own endings. It can feel very true to life - we often see a sliver of somebody else's existence, then are left to speculate. 
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012 5:49 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


sopranos ending, hate it. Give me a denouement, but a few loose ends, those are cool.

Marc Poliquin
Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 7:22 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Since you mentioned television, Alexander, I won't even begin to rant about Lost's loose ends. 

I've always felt that a story needs to end as soon as the main conflict is over.  Get in late, get out early.  As long as that main conflict is resolved, I don't mind if one or more of the characters slips away into the night. 

Angela Martello
Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 6:55 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


I think it all depends on the loose end in question. Life, after all, is filled with loose ends, so why not fiction? But I agree with Maria, the big things need to be tied up for me or I, too, feel like I was cheated (that's true for a book, short story, TV series, or movie). Of course, if the author is planning on writing a sequel or a series, then I don't mind loose ends at all. If anything, they make me rather impatiently wait for the next book to publish.

On the other hand, books that go out of their way to tie up every single rinky-dink loose end in the last chapter or so make me a little crazy. I don't need everything explained to me. In a way, I agree with Marc - I don't mind if some of the loose ends just slip away.

A J Hart
Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 11:38 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 26


Angela, I like your piont about sequals and loose ends but I have the opposite feelings for them. I get irritated if I have to wait for the author to write the next book to see if the hero does die, or if the two lovers are ever going to see each other again. The Harry Potter books were tortuous for me and I read them in a single sitting when they finally came out, causing me to miss about half of the book. I've learned my lesson and dont start series untill all the books are out.....and this has nothing to do with the thread. Sorry for the highjack Marc! 
Angela Martello
Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 9:11 AM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


A J, I admit - I tend to wait until all the books in a series are out before I read them. If not, I will reread the first two books of a trilogy when the third one finally does come out. But I don't mind the loose ends in a series of books. (There, I think we're back on Marc's thread )

Marc Poliquin
Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:56 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


I actually think AJ's remark fits in nicely.    The first book in a series could be considered a loose end if the author leaves the reader hanging.  I'm of the opinion that the main conflict in the first book in a series should be wrapped up, and if the series takes off, then the cliffhanger can happen in the second book. 

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 4:54 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I don't know about wrapping up a main conflict in the first book. Sometimes that is what keeps the series going. If the main conflict is wrapped up, then why a sequel? It would just be a new series with the same characters and a new main conflict, not a sequel. Like the Harry Potter books, the main conflict is to defeat Voldemort (I probably spelled that wrong), and it takes all 7.
Marc Poliquin
Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 8:29 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


It's funny you should mention Harry Potter.  I was thinking of the first book in the series when I wrote my last comment.  And this is where the subjective nature of art comes in, I guess.  In my opinion, the first Harry Potter book could stand on its own.  If the series had never taken off, the Philosopher's Stone would still have been a satisfying read. 

A J Hart
Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 8:41 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 26


I agree with you Marc, I think the first HP, with a couple tweaks, could stand on its own and not be drawn out in 7 books. I like to have the majority of the conflict wraped up by the end of a book before I start on the next one in the sequel. Or if its only one book, end the book without any questions of what happen next. 
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 11:27 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


That is true, the first book could stand on its own with a couple of tweaks. Then you have books like The Lord of the Rings trilogy which was originally written as one book, but then split into 3. (That is the problem I'm dealing with now.) It is exceptionally hard to finish off the main quest line. The writer has to pick an over reaching secondary arc, and finish that to tie the whole thing together.

(Oh crap, now I have to tie on another 3 chapters. 200,000 words here I come. Damn it.)
GD Deckard
Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:51 PM
The Harry Potter books grossed "B"illions. That's reason enought to write a lot of them.
stephmcgee
Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 2:17 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I'm in the opposite boat.  If the main conflict is wrapped in the first book, but then it's revealed to be part of a "trilogy" it winds up (IMO) reading like a book with a two-part sequel and not a true trilogy.  You can still end with a decent climax in all three books without wrapping the main conflict in book 1.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 3:07 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


That's what I was trying to say, Steph. I guess I failed at being so eloquent. So yes, I agree with you. The main conflict cannot be wrapped up in the first book for the second one to be a true sequel.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:44 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


GD, the first release of harry potter was DISMAL in sales. It wasn't until the third book that the series got found and picked up momentum.

SusanElizabeth
Posted: Monday, April 2, 2012 9:39 PM
Joined: 7/18/2011
Posts: 25


Then, there's always the Hunger Games approach. To tie-up the main conflict and then introduce new loose ends to take you into the second book.

Angela, I agree with your comment, "Life, after all, is filled with loose ends, so why not fiction?" There's never one true happy-ending in life - we move from challenge to challenge, and moment to moment. I enjoy when a story leaves us with a bit of ambiguity, when the story is treated as a glimspe into one moment in someone's life.

Of course, in a mystery we want to know whodunnit, but maybe we don't need to hear that everyone lived happily ever after the murderer was caught.

PureMagic
Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 10:00 AM
Joined: 12/1/2011
Posts: 35


Loose ends are fine so long as they are not a crucial part of the overall story.  This excludes books which are part of a series - things like the Lord of the Rings books - will generally have large open issues at the end of a book but will wrap them up at the end of the cycle.  Small things are fine because even the smallest dangling thread can lead into another large story should the author decide to continue the tale, but they do not take away from the climax.

I am left thinking of TV shows, and a few spring to mind.  People complain mightily about the endings to "Lost" and "The Sopranos."  Why?  Because they invested many hours of time in following the story, but the endings did not wrap up all of the storylines those shows had, with "Lost being the worse culprit.  On the other hand, "ER" was finally put out of its misery with a conclusion that wrapped the individual character arcs but left their futures open-ended because their lives go on.  The last shot was a pull-away of the hospital with ambulances pulling up and traffic going by - because the hospital, like the characters, keeps going and lives on. 

As a writer, I do try to make sure that I have all the answers to all the questions I raise, and that every plot line I begin has an ending as well.  The endings most of the time will not be the last thing the character ever does, but it the last thing that they do which is relevant to the story.  I think that is the key.  That they live happily ever after (or not) is enough; there is no need to Potter-fy the ending.


MariAdkins
Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:25 PM
Life doesn't come with its endings in beautiful packages tied up in gorgeous bows. I don't like my fiction to either. However, if those loose ends are major plot points, then I get cranky.

Michael R Hagan
Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2012 11:02 AM
Joined: 10/14/2012
Posts: 229


I definately want everything tied up in the end. It may be a clever twist to leave things unsaid in the same way that often for a story to earn credibility it has to end in tears.
psonally, being a pessimist by nature, if it is left open then no matter how I try, I always suspect the worst scenario is what happens next.
In fact often after reading a book, even when the story is well and truly dealt with, I wish there were a short epilogue just letting me know how the characters are getting along, even after the plot's crisis or adventure has ended. Does this mean I get too emotionally attached and am actually a clingy person by nature?
Any shrinks out there?
P.S. My wife thinks you look like Colin Firth!


Valerie Davidson
Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 6:16 AM
Joined: 11/23/2012
Posts: 1


Loose ends....NO!
Any book containing them should come with a well displayed health warning. I'll write and finish my story, and if I purchase a novel, I want the author to have done the same....Sorry, but they particularlydrive me mad when..........
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See what I mean?
Couldn't agree more with the last comment on this topic, and also...... Colin Firth, is that really you?
Val.

 

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