Endings are funny things to write.
I’ve started getting feedback on a big work in progress and one of the interesting questions raised has been about the ending. It closes off the plot arcs that I’d built the story around, but it also leaves a lot of questions open. One beta reader’s initial feedback was full of these questions – what happens next? what about character x? is this setup for a sequel?
Leaving such questions open is one of two ways to deal with ending a story.
On the one hand, you can deliver closure, providing neat endings for story arcs. This is satisfying for readers, in part because it’s so different from the uncomfortably open-ended nature of reality.
On the other hand, there’s ending with questions open. This leaves readers thinking about the novel, considering what they think happens next, potentially yearning for more. It’s more real, but lacks the catharsis of a closed arc.
Of course, most stories don’t just do one or the other. They’ll close some arcs and leave others open. The question isn’t which to do but which to do more of.
The answer isn’t going to be easy. It depends upon your taste, your audience, the nature of the story, the message you’re trying to convey, and a hundred other considerations of craft, inspiration, and business. But it’s not an answer you can avoid providing.
Every story finishes, but not every one has a neat “The End”. For the one I’m working on, I want a high degree of audience satisfaction, while still leaving some questions open. That probably means I need to provide more closure than I’m doing right now. For you, the balance might be very different.
And for now, I’ll just stop there.