So what brought this on? Nothing really. Everything. And that damn Sopranos ending that people still insistently poke and prod at because they didn’t get their neat little bow on top. It’s been eight years and David Chase still has to justify that ending, an ending I thought was mysterious, philosophically creative, and absolutely brilliant.
I’m sure there is some deep-seated psychology behind the need to wrap up loose ends, fill in plot holes, and finish a story with a neat done, finished, don’t have to think about it anymore ever after. Flavorwire seems to think that this obsession with resolution is killing television. I think it’s killing creativity, period, in television, in film, and in literature.
I hate it. I hate it about as much as I hate the likable character obsession, and the reason why I hate this shit is simple: It puts the creator in chains. Why? Because oftentimes the artist feels forced to create in a vacuum where everything is sucked, rather insistently, towards the nice, neat, perfect little ending.
Maybe it’s the flash fiction writer or the abstract art lover in me. Maybe I appreciate experimentation and ambiguity more than most people because of that fact. Whatever. Maybe it’s simply that I feel art — any art, including television — is meant to be reflected upon: socially, philosophically, metaphysically, theologically, and all those other things that end in “ally.” Even behaviorally and sexually. We got brains so we can think deeply about stuff, whether we can relate to it or not, and we aren’t given the opportunity to think if we are handed a nice neat plot and a nice neat ending. I like thinky stuff.
When I wrote The Kissing Room, it was my first novella, and because it is sort of a romantic thriller, I felt boxed in. Held back. I felt that I had to offer up an HEA, and so I did. To this day, ten years later, it’s still my most popular download, and that makes me angry a little. Why? It’s not my best book. Character motivations are out in plain sight. I use a rather formulaic plot trajectory, and despite the disturbing trigger warning elements of the story, it moves along quite predictably to that HEA. If I were to rewrite it, I’d tear it to shreds.
Despite that suffocating feeling, I kept on writing in my little mission box, until, after reading a portion of my current WIP, a good friend and writing partner said to me that he thought I was holding back. He was right. I was. I was so afraid that my work wouldn’t be embraced by mainstream readers that I censored myself at the expense of experimentation and the art I wanted to create.
I stopped doing that.
I get negative commentary because of it: I couldn’t relate to the characters. I wasn’t sure I understood what was happening in the story. Not sure if the ending resolved things for me. Hate the characters. Things didn’t change by the end. Blah. Blah. Blah.
I stopped doing that.
In Splendor of Antiquity, a theological romantic adventure, I don’t explain the characters, and I never reveal the name of the dead King narrator, even though Joliette knew who he was.
In Thin Wall, an erotic literary romance, the characters are often loathsome, even to each other, and nothing really changes in the end because it doesn’t have to. Also, despite the mention of de Sade, there is no torture porn. Sorry. Ha! No I’m not.
In Logos, a metaphysical fantasy, I never say exactly what happens in the end. Is Ilsebet dead? Is she not dead? WTF. That’s right. WTF.
And I did the same with Death Dreamt, a philosophical horror story. I never identify the killer. Their motivations. Or what actually happens to Rowan and Killy.
I stopped doing all dat shizzle.
My flash fiction is pure chaos, and in my newest WIP titled Knowing Joe, I’m taking ambiguity to the nth degree. Even the characters don’t know WTF is going on most of the time. But it’s a comedy — a non-sex, non-romance, romantic comedy — and I’m having an all-out blast writing it even though I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.
Because I said fuck it and busted out of the mission box. Come what may.
Of course, other’s mileage will vary depending on the genre they choose, as some of them genre slots got more rules than others. Personally, I hate rules and prefer writing without a safety net.