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.)

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