By far, the most common observation I get from people who read my work is: ‘why didn’t you tell us what happened “in the end”? or ‘I wanted to see what happened after that.’ For sometime I’ve puzzled over this, because where stories of peoples’ lives are concerned, for me “the end” occurs at their death (and maybe not even then) and “what happens after” may just be window-dressing. Pretty to look at with little function. So, for me, the wedding isn’t nearly as important as a couple’s struggle to decide that they should have one, the verbal ‘I love you’ not as significant as the myriad tiny ways that I can show two people as they journey toward experiencing that emotion.
And finally, where conclusions of my books are concerned, I think there may be a little misunderstanding. Here’s the thing: I never strive to give the reader a sense of completion. Instead, what I’m going for is longing.
- a yearning desire.
“Miranda felt a wistful longing for the old days”
synonyms:yearning, pining, craving, ache, burning, hunger, thirst, hankering;
Don’t get me wrong. There is something to be said for reading a book, leaning back in your chair and sighing as though you’ve just eaten a large (but not too large) but supremely satisfying meal. And when I want that feeling, I have some go-to-writers who can be counted on to give it to me. But for me, the books that stayed with me, the ones I never forget are the ones that end with some ambiguity and send my imagination soaring, or wandering through a dozen different potential scenarios. Those are the books that leave me in a heightened emotional state, sometimes euphoric and other times despondent, but always, always with a sense of wanting something; and that feeling for me is both maddening and strangely satisfying. For others, I realize, when I end a book that way, it’s simply frustrating but I can’t help it . . . it’s what works for me.
When I started writing, I used to try to give conclusive endings, but they felt wrong and contrived. I don’t like even the implication of an “ending”. I like the idea that we go on and on, learning more, making mistakes, hurting the ones we love, making amends and doing it all over again. So I end my books that way—with the promise of more to come, maybe, but never with a sense of utter completion.
I don’t mean this as a missive against those who call for me to write HEAs, but just as an explanation of where I’m coming from and where I want to go with what I write. Completion works for some writers, but not for me. I want to leave you aching, craving . . . longing.