An open to interpretation ending of my novel?

by Anam


Thank you so much for answering my previous question :)

Well, I've written about a quarter of my novel and have changed the ending a little in my mind. So, right now, I'm toying with two ideas. One is an open to interpretation ending where the reader finds out in the last chapter/ the last page that the boy who drowned was actually pushed under the water. Now the whole novel points to one suspect but I don't want to state it explicitly on the last page because this is through another character's mind who isn't sure and doesn't want to voice it.

I've heard that open to interpretation endings shouldn't be used in novels, so I'd appreciate your advice.


Response: I don't know your story, but here's an example of how such an ending would make sense.

Suppose you had a mystery story in which the main character has a hard time discerning the truth due to a shortage of facts or contradictory facts. His natural inclination might be to allow the uncertainty to continue until some definite proof arose.

However, at the same time he is being pressured by an impact character who argues that evidence doesn't have to be 100% conclusive. Perhaps he feels the best available answer is good enough, especially if it satisfies people's emotional needs.

So at the climax, the main character changes to the impact character's way
of thinking. He finds the best available solution and puts everyone's doubts to rest (which is the goal of the story). Everyone is satisfied.

But then, the main character stumbles on a piece of evidence that brings the truth into question once more. Now he is left with the knowledge that he might have made the wrong decision.

We call this a comi-tragedy or personal tragedy.

Another example would be the film Chinatown in which the detective figures out who the murderer is, but fails to protect the heroine or see justice done.

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express works this way too. In this novel, the detective has two possible solutions to a murder: a weak solution that would see no one punished, and a far more likely solution that would punish a lot of well-intentioned people. The detective decides to allow the weaker solution to stand, but is left with his ideals of absolute justice damaged.

It's a fine technique if it suits the message you are trying to convey. In the case of Chinatown the message is that the world is corrupt and real justice is not possible. In the case of Murder on the Orient Express, the message is that there are exceptional cases in which it is all right for people to take the law into their own hands.

(It's also a technique that can nicely pave the way for a sequel.)

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero