Open ended stories - annoying

Danny McG

Star Trek is for adults, Star Wars is for kids
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One of my pet hates.

Examples: The Cell by Stephen King, what happened? Did the second phone call cure the madness?
The meeting by Frederick Pohl, did he allow the doctor to take his son's brain out or not?

I know there's a goodly number of authors in Chrons, please please please don't do this.
No doubt there are a lot of arty farty answers about literary integrity etc but all you actually achieve is to give a feeling of being cheated to the paying customers. If the authors don't give endings why should I pay my hard earned money to buy their work?
 
One of my pet hates.

Examples: The Cell by Stephen King, what happened? Did the second phone call cure the madness?
The meeting by Frederick Pohl, did he allow the doctor to take his son's brain out or not?

I know there's a goodly number of authors in Chrons, please please please don't do this.
No doubt there are a lot of arty farty answers about literary integrity etc but all you actually achieve is to give a feeling of being cheated to the paying customers. If the authors don't give endings why should I pay my hard earned money to buy their work?
but others enjoy open endings. @Mouse, who no longer drops by, much preferred them to cut and dried endings. I haven't read the Pohl book, but I did read Cell and I was happy enough with the ending. The father had done everything he'd set out to do at the start of the book - find his son and try to help him. I was okay with not knowing where the rest of the story went as I was bought into that need.

I don't tend to write open ended books (although my one coming out in July was a little open ended at one point, but I've been nailed to my seat and told to sort it out :D) but when I read one I don't feel too cheated - unless it is a key central question that remains unanswered.
 
The one that drove me nuts was Vilette. Well, it didn't -- I'm pretty sure how it ends (I think), but it was frustrating.
 
Jo - Only in books would such things be allowed. Imagine, if you will the original Magnificent 7, they loudly declare nobody is gonna hand them back their own guns, they head back to the village, then the end credits roll! Open ended... did they win or lose?
Rocky comes out for his final round, end credits!
Just doesn't seem right does it?
What are the film directors playing at? "Oh, they used to be authors, well that's ok then"
Also bear in mind you sit in cinema maybe 3 hours. You invest a lot more time in reading a good yarn.
I've recently started writing my own space opera type story - WITH an ending!
 
Open ended isa requirement for certain unanswerable questions. Like chicken/egg or does the means justify the end. However, some are just a cop out. In short, it depends. ETA. Actually the Rocky one is where an open end would work, maybe even better.
 
Jo - Only in books would such things be allowed. Imagine, if you will the original Magnificent 7, they loudly declare nobody is gonna hand them back their own guns, they head back to the village, then the end credits roll! Open ended... did they win or lose?
Rocky comes out for his final round, end credits!
Just doesn't seem right does it?
What are the film directors playing at? "Oh, they used to be authors, well that's ok then"
Also bear in mind you sit in cinema maybe 3 hours. You invest a lot more time in reading a good yarn.
I've recently started writing my own space opera type story - WITH an ending!
I'm really just playing devil's advocate ;)
 
Jo - Only in books would such things be allowed. Imagine, if you will the original Magnificent 7, they loudly declare nobody is gonna hand them back their own guns, they head back to the village, then the end credits roll! Open ended... did they win or lose?
Rocky comes out for his final round, end credits!
Just doesn't seem right does it?
What are the film directors playing at? "Oh, they used to be authors, well that's ok then"
Also bear in mind you sit in cinema maybe 3 hours. You invest a lot more time in reading a good yarn.
I've recently started writing my own space opera type story - WITH an ending!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one that doesn't show the end, though you can make a reasoned guess what's about to happen.

The Sopranos ending is deliberately ambiguous (and caused a huge amount of fuss because of it ;) ).

I'm sure there are others which I will remember later (Blake's 7?).
 
I know there's a goodly number of authors in Chrons, please please please don't do this.
No doubt there are a lot of arty farty answers about literary integrity etc but all you actually achieve is to give a feeling of being cheated to the paying customers. If the authors don't give endings why should I pay my hard earned money to buy their work?
I understand that you dislike them, but I don't get why you're trying to dictate what other writers should do with their writing, when clearly, it's proven to be effective and fine. Sure, it's frustrating, the same way how characters going down into the creepy cellar is in horror stories. But that's part of why people enjoy those stories. Yes, horror is a genre, and open-endings are a technique, so you could argue it's harder to avoid... but then again... it's not.

Read reviews of books to find out if it has an open ending, and then you can avoid spending your hard-earned money on it if it does. That way you avoid it, the writer still writes it, and the readers who don't mind that sort of thing/enjoy it, get a satisfying read.
 
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one that doesn't show the end, though you can make a reasoned guess what's about to happen.

The Sopranos ending is deliberately ambiguous (and caused a huge amount of fuss because of it ;) ).

I'm sure there are others which I will remember later (Blake's 7?).
Blake's 7 is a fantastic example of when an open ended ending works incredibly well. To have ended it a scene later when, presumably
Avon is dead
would have been such a downer. We know what is likely to happen but leaving just a chance he made it through gave it an edge that would have been missing otherwise (and destroyed many threads on which gun was heard last...)
 
Like the man said - always leave them wanting more. An open ending is the acorn that can grow a mighty sequel and hungry writers do need money. The movie analogy is a good example. There's plenty of Hollywood films that have a nice, tidy ending BUT the studio demands a sequel. Uh oh - we already destroyed the Terminator and saved the future, now we'll need some convoluted nonsense to tease another story out of the premise.
Don't get me wrong, I tend to agree that a good ending is satisfying, but there's also merit in firing the reader's/viewer's imagination too.
For me the more frustrating ending is the "it was all a dream" cop out. None of what you've been watching is of any consequence in the story, because it was all just a dream.
 
Jo - Only in books would such things be allowed. [...]

So you've never seen Hitchcock's The Birds? Or, to a degree, Notorious? I remember my mother-in-law hated Hitchcock movies for their open endings, though not all Hitchcock movies have them. Still, open endings are a real lady or the tiger predicament for some.

Usually the point of an open ending is to pretty much tell you you've been interested in the hugger-mugger of plot but the real interest and essence of the story is elsewhere: In Notorious, it's the love affair between the Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman characters and what it means to them, not the fate of the Claude Rains character; and in The Birds it's (I think, though frankly I'm still chewing on it) the smallness of mankind contrasted against the vastness of nature, and particularly a conscious, angry nature.

Naturally, just 'cause the author/auteur says or thinks so doesn't mean it is so, and the reader/viewer is free to hoot and blow raspberries and look elsewhere for entertainment.


Randy M.
 
Various responses...
I'm not trying to dictate ( i gave a triple please in first place!)
The film the Birds was IMO fairly poor compared to the original book.
Also, again as my opinion, even in these few replies a spoiler alert crops up so it would undermine the whole point of buying the story if I first read a review detailed enough to expand upon the book ending.
I like a trilogy or four book series etc but not when book one is marketed as a complete story until final pages.
I've ground my teeth in frustration at getting to page 890 and the next page states " to be continued in book two" but that ain't as bad as the story just finishing with massive open plotlines. ( shudders in outrage)
 
I've just read the book 'On' by Adam Roberts, and although I really enjoyed it, thinking the writing and ideas presented were superb, the end was like walking into a wall (there's a pun there for anyone who has read the book). It just stops. It's not so much an open ending as an exercise in confounding the reader.

It was flowing. Then it stopped. To the extent that I wondered whether there was a problem with the kindle version of the book, as in missing the last few chapters, or I had missed something, or if it was not a stand alone book... (it is).

It just leads you with the sense of something huge missing, as though the writer thought 'that's enough.' and stopped.

It was incredibly annoying.

But some open endings do work, they give the sense of life continuing after the cover is closed.
 
'On' by Adam Roberts

I think that's the first time I've seen that book mentioned on here since I joined over eight years ago. I agree completely about the ending, but other parts of the story have stuck with me since I read it, so it must have been doing something right.

From what I remember, The Magus by John Fowles also ends openly -- you never really find out whether Nicholas has learned from his experiences or not, which would seem to negate the whole point of the book. But it doesn't somehow; it works. I can see, though, that an open ending in a more plot-based genre story could be annoying.
 
Some writers have a good excuse "The mystery of Edwin Drood" as an example.
How many of the classics just finish? I can't think of any (maybe look online later)
They knew how to write a tale in days of yore
 
I really dislike open-ended stories, too. It's a criticism I've levelled here about Stephen King, for example, that some of his books didn't feel like they'd actually ended - that something was missing to conclude them.

And yet, and yet ... I'm experimenting with a side project that does have an open ending. And it's not because I want one, it's simply that the story has one - I always know how my stories are supposed to end before I write one, and this is how this one ends. And if I try to change it, it would become a completely different story, and not one I'd want to write.

Then again, if I do finish this project, maybe my betas will persuade me to change it after all and maybe I'll agree. :D
 
I think that's the first time I've seen that book mentioned on here since I joined over eight years ago. I agree completely about the ending, but other parts of the story have stuck with me since I read it, so it must have been doing something right.

Glad to have broken it's duck then ;)

To be honest it has probably been sitting on my to read pile for about 8 years....
 
I'm experimenting with a side project that does have an open ending.

Actually, to clarify - I did wonder if there was a sequel to the story, which excused the initial open-ending. But now I'm beginning to think I need to change the ending entirely. :)
 
All I can say is "Don't read any John Wyndham".

But what exactly is an open ending? Take the end of the film Starship Troopers. We never see the aliens being finally defeated. But it's clear that an important point has been reached and, in capturing the Brain Bug, the tipping point of the war has been reached. Or The Puppet Masters, which ends with a fleet about to leave Earth to take the war to the aliens. That seems like a sufficient ending for me. Unless something totally unexpected happens, the way the story ends is now clear. Victory is in sight, and that's enough to finish the book.
 
The only open ending I can think of at the moment is the movie Oldboy. Personally, it worked for me.

I'd add that it very much felt like the ending. The story of why Oh Dae-Su ends up in his predicament, how he deals with it, and how it changes him and those around him, is over. There are some open questions - really big open questions - of how Oh Dae-Su and the others go on to lead their lives, but those belong to a different story.
 

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