Endings. Should they be conclusive or ambiguous?
by Todd Foley
“I look for ambiguity when I’m writing because life is ambiguous.”
― Keith Richards
I wrote a post awhile back about the power of the final words in a film/book, which generated some great conversation.
But what about endings that end before we find out how
[Yes, that was intentional.]
Sometimes we find ourselves shocked that the story has ended and are left trying to piece together all the previous points in the story. Will that relationship be reconciled? What will be the outcome of that conflict? Where is John Doe driving to?
“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: This skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
This frustrates some audiences but fascinates others. I’m of the latter. I view stories as snapshots of a much larger narrative. Other people view stories as beacons of hope that should provide some conclusiveness in the midst of our often non-conclusive world.
What say you? Are ambiguous endings brilliant? Manipulative? Rich? Cheap?
Wow, great question Todd! I’d say honestly, it depends. I kind of look at comic books and tv shows as the guideline for endings .(I know I’m a geek like that.) You can’t ALWAYS have a concrete ending. You can’t always leave the audience guessing though either. There is a happy medium somewhere. It is up to US as artists to draw that line in the sand.
Love the point you made, Jim. It’s definitely a case-by-case scenario depending on the story. That happy medium does exist, indeed!
I love ambiguous endings because they are the ones you are thinking about long after the experience is over. Questions keep surfacing, and you may find yourself re-examining the content for some missed piece. These endings make you think, spark conversations, and ultimately make you remember.
Great write Todd!
You nailed it, Cole! I love it when I keep analyzing endings long after the fact and looking back at the story as a whole. That’s the richness of storytelling.
The honesty of your ptosnig is there for all to see
Ambiguous!! Rarely in life do we get things tied up in a pretty package with a bow like we normally get in books or movies.
I may need to write that down and pin it on my bulletin board, Tammy. 🙂 Fantastic perspective!