Ambiguity, thy curse is mine
Posted by Lise McClendon in Kindle, Readers, Uncategorized, writing on Jan 28, 2013
There are two takes on the novel. From the writer and the reader’s points of view, the facts of the story are either cut-and-dried , laid out in all their obvious glory, or they are ambiguous. This shouldn’t be a surprise. There are people who are sensitive to language, there are people who have a more rational bent, there are ALL SORTS OF READERS of books. Take, if you will, the variety of reader reviews of my suspense novel, Blackbird Fly. Some people can’t stand the fact that every loose end is not explained within an inch of it’s life. Every person’s fate must be ordained, every future mapped out. Every bad guy must be jailed. Every good girl must get her guy.
Unfortunately for these readers that’s not the way I’m wired. As a writer, I love a certain amount of ambiguity. That’s the way life is. Yes, I’m doing it on purpose, not because I’m lazy or incompetent. (Believe me there are days.) Some readers accuse me of setting up a sequel (well, okay, I will write one!) and others simply complain that they didn’t feel satisfied by the ending. I get that, and I am really sorry. Some of my author friends spend an extra chapter wrapping up the details so there is that feeling that all is explained. I should be like that, I really should. However I feel that readers just miss some of the clues, some of the pointers that show the way to What Really Happened and What Happens Next. Or they purposefully ignore them, wanting to lectured.
I’m sorry, Reader, if you feel that way. I wish I’d made you happy. I tried. But I have to write the next book, and the one after that. If you feel cheated by the ending of a book, go ahead and say so in an online review. That’s your right. But not everyone feels that way. So maybe you should slow down a little, read a little more carefully. Think about the meaning of words, imagine the character in place, doing whatever it is they do. Conjure in your mind, if you will, what takes place between chapters, before the story starts, when a secondary character is on stage. Open yourself to possibility. A story is a shared journey, between you and the writer. You choose to go along, or not. The writer has done his or her best to explain the story as they know it. Join in the imaginary world, see it, feel it, smell it, and it will be yours.
I hereby pledge to try to make the next novel fully satisfying. For you, but also, my friend, for me. Because we’re both in this together.
… and yet, to me, the ambiguity, the ‘unanswereds’ in BLACKBIRD FLY were at the heart of its strength as a novel. And the unanswered questions were the kind that made me, as a reader, ask those questions of my own life. But, as you say, to each his/her own!
We’re on the same wavelength, Denice. And thank god for that! 🙂