How do you feel about ambiguous endings?
This question spawned a few questions of my own.
What is an ambiguous ending? Is it one where some loose ends are left dangling (and it’s clear they haven’t been resolved)? Or is it one where the ending is not clear (either the reader isn’t sure if the main conflict has been resolved, or isn’t clear how)? Am I splitting hairs here?
Of course, I’ve read books with both types of endings.
I have no problem with books that leave a thread (or several) hanging. Most of the time, as long as the main conflict has been resolved one way or the other (oh, who am I kidding? I want the good guys to prevail!), I’m happy. I can deal with a few things going unresolved. After all, real life is plenty messy.
Honestly, I also have no problem with books having an ambiguous ending, with one major caveat: THE ENDING HAS TO MAKE SENSE! If the ambiguity is due to a nonsensical plot twist, or a completely-out-of-character action, or a deus ex machina, then fuggedaboutit!
But in general, I don’t need to know exactly what happened. In fact, sometimes it’s more satisfying to me if I have to ponder several possible outcomes. (For some reason, I find ambiguous endings more “palatable” when they occur in short stories, than in novels. But I think that’s a question for another blog post.)
When I write a novel or story, I try to elicit a certain reaction from my readers after they’ve finished. I’m going for the “Of course, that’s what happened! (Or that’s who did it!) It’s the only solution that makes sense. And boy, I should have seen it coming!” If I can achieve that type of reaction, then I feel I’ve done my job (at least plot-wise).
That’s also the kind of reaction that satisfies me as a reader. And yes, I CAN be satisfied with an ambiguous ending, if I feel the story demands it.
Most of the books I’ve written have neatly-wrapped endings. I like having good defeat evil. But in THE TASTE, I leave the reader wondering what will happen next. And really, it seemed like the only way I could end the story, given the chain of events and the characters.
What about you, readers? Where do you stand on ambiguous endings: love them or hate them?