September 19, 2013

Open-ended and closed-ended stories

Dear M,

There are open-ended stories and there are closed-ended stories. (Is that what they are called - closed-ended? Sounds a little weird. Anyway I hope you get the idea.) Open ended stories leave you with a strange feeling, because you do not know what happened, or you wonder did they do this or do that, or you wish to re-read the last part to know what the author meant: did she mean what you think she means? Or you ask yourself, why in the world did the protagonist do that - when he had every reason to act otherwise? It drives you mad - which means the story is a success.

I like open ended stories, and once in a while I am able to write such too. I know it when my friend calls me up and asks, what in the world did you mean? I chuckle and reply that whatever you feel had happened, is what happened. That's the most amazing part of an open ended story. It is left to the reader's imagination. The writer only suggests something, the reader deciphers it as per his experience or knowledge.

However, most of my stories are closed-ended. The sense of closure and the calmness it brings is somehow important to me when I write. Not always, as I said, but most of the time. Even a closed-ended story can be kind of open-ended. The author does explain what has happened and closes all loops, but not the why or even the how. Or she may leave some clues which leave us wondering. The characters in the story think the chapter is closed, but we the readers know there is more to it. I don't know how to explain it, but I know it when I write it, or read it.

Such endings leave us thinking. It goes much beyond the 'what happened', into the much deeper purpose that lies in all our actions and reactions and words and silences, and in our very existence. It is these stories that actually can awaken us and prod us into action.


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