I feel like so much of what I read and write these days comes with unsatisfying endings. Not that unsatisfying endings are bad, but they’re best when they inspire further thought and interpretation, not just a downer.
I ended Jeopardy on a interpretive note. I hadn’t originally intended to include the scene in the “afterlife”. It would have been just as well as a metaphor for heroin use without it. It was almost a bonus chapter to be included here for the curious, because it’s slightly expository and transitionally magical nature could have fallen out of place in the piece.
However, ultimately, I enjoy a book that makes us think, that has something to say. I realize a lot of people think that kind of writing is stuffy and expository. The trick is to make it exciting, to invoke emotion as you raise your points and to leave the reader feeling and thinking at the same time.
Unsatisfying endings are like unexpected moves during sex. They can leave you feeling uncomfortable and unfulfilled, or they can have you questioning your existence even as you call out for the divine.
I try not to leave too much ambiguity. Enough for discussion, not enough to mistake the premise.
Good works take a stand. Even generic action thrillers do so. We may not have known Bruce Willis’ politics on top of Nakatomi tower, but we knew what he wanted and where he was going.
Good thrillers do the same. Politics and philosophy do not need to be excised from the written word to make a good read; indeed, an inherent sense of some larger purpose is the only thing that makes good writing great.
Just don’t leave us hanging.