by Tamela Hancock Murray
Do you like stories with unsure endings? Where you don’t know if the main characters will live happily ever after?
I am a reader who doesn’t like open endings, probably because I enjoy novels that are heavy on romance and I like to know the couple can expect a happily-ever-after. My personal preference is for a novel that doesn’t beg for a sequel for the protagonist.
A Satisfying End?
Gone with the Wind ended with Scarlett O’Hara saying that tomorrow is another day. Because we had spent considerable time with Scarlett — 1200 pages, in fact, we knew that Scarlett would get her way. Somehow. Because she was Scarlett. So while in the most technical of terms, Margaret Mitchell left us with an open ending, it was still satisfying enough. Except that later, some felt the story did beg for a sequel. The sequel was panned in most quarters.
Do I Tie Up All Loose Ends?
The open end is quite different from tying up all loose ends, though. Leaving some loose ends untied makes for the ability to turn the first story into a sequel. Or two. Or three. When I was writing novels, often fans would ask to find out what happened to one of my minor characters. A favorite example of mine is a character I had planned to throw away. He was a raging alcoholic, last seen sleeping on a buggy seat, drool dripping from his mouth. But my readers wanted Lord Cecil to be redeemed. And he was, in The Lady and the Cad (The going rate? A penny. God keeps me humble.)
Do I Plan for Sequels?
I think it’s good to propose three books. Throw in a charming sister, an errant brother, or a friend in early books who might capture readers’ imagination just enough that they’ll want more. Another way to tie in stories is through an engaging location that readers will want to visit again and again.
For nonfiction, it’s also a good idea to show that you have ideas for other books. They won’t be sequels in the same sense, but will make sense for your ministry. Perhaps three books on various aspects of marriage or family relationships or financial management, or social justice. You get the picture.
If you read Gone with the Wind, were you satisfied by the ending? Or did you think the book needed a sequel?
Do you like open endings? Why or why not?
What is the best open-ended book you have read?
What is your favorite series of books?