Miracle of miracle, friends: I am writing an actual blog post, woooo! Anyway, this particular topic is brought to you by this post,which was inspired by this post telling me why it’s cool if George RR Martin never finishes A Song of Fire & Ice. Because look, my first response was “oh hell no”, followed by some open-mindedness, then back to a resounding and hard nope.

Because I asked myself: Have I ever liked an open-ending in a book? And the answer was that no, no I did not. But lots of them did make me stabby!

Now, lots of times, there are reasons for open endings. And that’s fine! But I mean, pretty much every time I am going to have a reason for not being on board, just saying. So here are some of those reasons, and my clapback, as you do.

Okay, look homie. If I was able to “use my imagination” that well, I’d be writing books myself (you know, without thinking “wow, no idea how this will end ?). But alas, I can’t. Because my imagination is… well it isn’t great. So I don’t really want to have to come up with my own explanation for how a war ended, or who ended up with who, or whatever. I just paid someone $17 to tell me.

Incidentally, I also think there’s something to be said for an aspect of a book/show/movie being canonically part of the story. Like, we all have our favorite “wish XYZ would have happened” in all forms of media. You don’t like who Katniss ended up with, you don’t like who died in Harry Potter and Whatever the Seventh Book is Called (shhh I am only on Book 5, no spoilers!), etc. And you can pretend in your own mind that these things are different! But they aren’tand you are quite aware that they aren’t part of the canon. This is why we Bellarke shippers carry anti-Becho signs. So if there is no canon… we are confused little fanpeople, right?

I mean, okay, but they owe us a story, right? Which, by it’s actual description, has an end? Which you can argue could be an open ending! You’d be right I guess but then I’d ask if an ending can actually be open by definition,  and we could go around and around until the end of time. So let us go ahead and pretend you won, for the sake of argument.

The thing is, even if they don’t owe us a particular ending (and I agree that they don’t, but we won’t get back into that), I also don’t have to like the ending, right?

I don’t want that! Who wants that!? No thank you please. Is anything more frustrating than thinking a series is ending, only… maybe it now isn’t? Plus, let’s be real. In publishing, there is no guarantee whatsoever. So you may *think* you’re coming back for book 4 or 400, but… who knows. I am still waiting on some actual series to be finished that may, at this point, not ever be. Publishing, you heartless bitch.

Plus, it isn’t necessary. You can end a particular plot and storyline while still being able to return to a world/characters. There’s not really a compelling reason to not end a thing on the possibility of maybe, but that’s just my opinion.

I mean, that’s true. And I also am not a fan of endings that wrap everything up in a pretty little bow, so I agree! But like- certain points in life are wrapped up, right? Like- when you are finished with school, there’s a chapter that is closing. Or whatever. I am going to bring up Mockingjay again because it’s seriously just such a good example. There was plenty of stuff left open. Because life goes on. But did it wrap up the immediate story of the Games and the rebellion? You betcha! And that is all I am asking- tell Shannon what happens to the immediate plot. That’s it. I don’t need to know what kind of sweater the MC was knitting in her nursing home, just let me know how the story wraps up!

And you’re right! Sadie is actually an example of one that it makes quite a bit of sense to end in an open way. However, just because it is fitting, there is no rule that says I cannot be a petulant toddler who wants a more closed ending. Sue me.

Well, I’ll give you this one. Sometimes they do. And let’s be real, isn’t that the real reason GoT fans are running scared? Dude is not getting any younger. ?‍♀️

Tell me friends, what do you think about the Open Ending? Can you live with them? Or do they make you high key stabby? And hey, is GoT ever going to end-end?

Posted January 14, 2019 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion, Discussion Challenge / 29 Comments


29 responses to “Open Endings: Can You Live With Them?

  1. I am honestly not a fan of open endings- like you said in your first point, I’m paying for someone to tell me! That being said, I don’t like it when authors take things too far in the info overload direction either, especially when it comes to epilogues where they revisit the characters in the future and every little detail is laid out. I read a contemporary adult novel with an epilogue like that recently and it basically just served as an excuse to have the actual ending end with a major cliffhanger, which I was not a fan of!

  2. I confess I don’t quite like open endings. Sometimes it does fit the book, but other times I can’t not understand why the author left it that way. It makes sense!!!! One of the main reasons I don’t love the Delirium Trilogy a lot more it’s because of the open ending. It’s a poetic ending, but I was expecting a Mockingjay-like ending – did the rebellion worked?! Well, I hope GoT does have an ending. I know Martin isn’t going younger. Hopefully, he will live many more years to gives us the ending we deserve. But if he doesn’t (*knocks on wood three times*), let’s hope we pulls a Robert Jordan, who left all the notes to someone else finish The Wheel of Time series.

  3. This is tricky! I don’t mind a book that leaves me ‘thinking’ and wanting to know more about a subject or a person, especially if there are details I can go away and look up. But to leave a book so open ended that you feel like there is something missing, doesn’t seem right to me.
    I once read a book where the author wrote two different endings and you could choose which you liked. But that didn’t work for me either. I was left feeling that if the author didn’t know the ending, how was I to believe in any of the story?

  4. Even that last one is just no excuse. Robert Jordan died and he left a really detailed outline in what was gonna happen in the final book(s) in the Wheel of Time Series, and Brandon Sanderson finished it up. (Brandon Sanderson was actually less rambly about it… shhhh….). So, nope. No excuses for open endings. I refuse. And I just bought Sadie and now I am scared.

  5. I actually quite like open endings! But it depends on the book and how the author does it. I need the main issues acknowledged in some way (I haven’t read Game of Thrones but I imagine ending without addressing what it set up to do in the slightest would be frustrating), but I can live without all the definite answers. I find that the Contemporary books I’ve read feel kind of hopeful when the future isn’t totally set in stone. Having said that, I haven’t read a lot of Fantasy books where the ending is left open. I don’t think a book needs to give you all of the answers to work, but I wouldn’t be able to handle something that feels incomplete. Having said that, Broken Things by Lauren Oliver has a somewhat open ending, but it really works. It felt like with the way the book was set up it was the only way it could have ended and I found it more satisfying than if it ended any other way.
    Really interesting post!

  6. Haha, I like this post. I’ll be so sad if George RR Martin doesn’t finish that series. I need to know what happens to everybody! Honestly, with most books, I’d rather have an open ending than a neat ending. I don’t like when the author forces the characters into relationships and solves complicated problems easily. Endings are hard to write. It’s difficult to know how to end a story realistically without disappointing the reader.

  7. I have a love/hate relationship with open endings. I can understand that for some stories open endings work beautifully! The happy-for-now endings are also great depending on the story. BUT I will also reserve the right to be a petulant child about it. I’ll go a step farther than you and say that I want a set-in-stone-never-changing-HEA regardless of if it works for the story or not 🙂

  8. Endings that are too open make me stabby for sure. But I feel like there’s a distinction between open endings and ambiguous ones. Open endings seem to be more out-of-nowhere, at least in my opinion. It almost seems like the author ran out of steam, tacked on a few paragraphs, and called it a resolution so readers could decide for themselves what happened afterwards. That’s just lazy. But I adore ambiguous endings, where it’s somewhat resolved but not definite, so you can almost imagine the characters living their lives past the last pages of the book. In those cases, I feel like the author definitely knows what happens next, but they don’t lay it all out for you. But I also know ambiguous endings drive some people crazy! It’s all a matter of personal taste, I guess. But when it comes to maybe a longer fantasy series where I’m even more invested in these characters I’ve spent so much time with, you bet I want my HEA and detailed epilogue telling me those characters are going to be okay.

  9. Great post, Shannon! Honestly, I think it depends on the kind of story it is and the kind of open ending it is. Like you said I don’t have to like an ending, so I’d much rather an author make me angry with an ending than leave it open if that’s how the author actually pictures the story ending.

    Some books are windows into a person’s life, just a little snippet from something much longer, and those are the books that tend to be more character-focused so I can understand them being more open-ended. Books that are very much plot-focused books, however, I don’t want an open-ended ending for. The Hunger Games is a really good example because, like you said, Collins didn’t tell us what every single character in Panem was doing but we at least know what happened with the Games. The book I always turn to for an example of a terrible open-ender is Requiem. That ending made me SO MAD. I wasted time on two books only to not even be told if any of the characters were alright in the end? The ironic thing is Delirium is the perfect example of a really, really well done open-ended novel – in fact I think Delirium should have been a standalone. I wonder if Oliver was going for that vibe at the end of Requiem, but the stakes were too high at that point – you can give me an open-ender for one character, but you can’t give me an open-ender for a WHOLE SOCIETY.

    Game of Thrones is a little more difficult. If Martin never finishes the books his fans will at least have an ending via the show, and that’s a story that does need an ending – I don’t want to watch this entire show only to never find out who sits on that ugly bloody chair. That being said, I do think some of Martin’s fans can be quite cruel. I mean I have no intention of reading the books (I tried and got bored) and I do think it must be irritating to wait for a book for years while he works on other projects and writes other books – DUDE, FINISH YOUR SERIES – but the amount of people who write to him and tell him they’ll worried he’ll die before he finishes the series? That’s just plain rude. You don’t say that to people.

    For the most part, I can cope with an open-ended story if it feels like it was meant to be an open-ended story, but there are other books, like Requiem, where it feels like the author just didn’t know what to write anymore and that’s not good enough. I want a story to end, not stop.

  10. Answer: Hells no. Question: Am I okay with open endings.
    Yeah, yeah, authors don’t “owe” me anything but in my little mind when I buy that book and read that book, there’s an unspoken agreement between me and the author. I will read your book, and you will give me a g**damn ending. LOL Do *not* make me figure it out, do *not* leave me wondering, do *not* say life itself is open-ended or that it’s up to me to decide what happened. Hell no. Not my job. I likely invested hours and hours reading your book and you owe me a legit ending. Doesn’t mean it always has to be a happy ending – I get that. But dammit, I want answers, I want to know what happens/happened and I want it now. 🙂

  11. In my very early days of reading (as an adult) I don’t mind them too much but I didn’t read as much as I do now or for the reasons I read now – escape. I want my bleeping ending.

    If I spend that many hours with characters, I want to know how it ends. I don’t read a book to watch people go shopping, or fight or whatever just to have them go home and take a nap int he end.

    Yes, that’s real life but I read to ESCAPE real life.

    But more than anything, open endings leave me sad. Like literally depressed for days wondering about these people. that’s not a fun reading experience for me.

    Having said all that, I was ok with Sadie lol But I knew ahead of time that it would be open ended and I think through her pov we did get the main answers about her sister, if not where she is now. But it did bum you out. A solid ending would have been better for me.

    The author doesn’t owe us anything is an absolutely fair argument and there are people who love open endings. That’s what’s so great about books. There’s something for everyone! So those groups can seek each other out but I will avoid the whole thing.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

  12. My favorite thing about open endings is that they usually mirror real life. As humans, we are not guaranteed a concrete conclusion to things that happen in our life. However, I don’t know how I feel about a series like A Song of Ice and Fire being left open ended. To me that shows lack of discipline in high-fantasy storytelling. I feel like for future readers it may actually cause people to look down on the books in knowing that there are so many loose ends. I can deal with open endings for the majority of books, but for something like that, I just can’t get behind.

  13. For me, it really depends on the story. Open endings work for some but not others. I at least want the immediate plot wrapped up most of the time at least.

  14. I guess it depends on the book, for me, but as a rule I’m not a fan of open endings? Again it depends since some stories DO work that way, but generally if I buy a book I want a story- preferably with an ending! I can think of one book in particular that is almost crying out for a sequel- I mean the characters are literally on the run with people chasing them- but the authors have no plans to write a sequel. ??? Now it could be the publisher doesn’t want a sequel, it didn’t sell enough, I don’t know of course, but the authors seemed to indicate that the story was pretty much “done.” Um, okay?

    So yeah that’s my thing. I think it’s awesome that this post came out just as the Game of Thrones season 8 trailer came out- reminding all of us that we’re going to get the SHOW ending even if we don’t get the book ending. Although I would take the book ending instead eight ways to Sunday, you know? The show is but a pale imitation of the books in my view. But if he never finishes at least we’ll have SOMETHING.

  15. I probably complain about open endings more than I do my morning bus driver. They make me nuts. Was it fitting to have Sadie end the way it did. Maybe, because the story was so bleak to start with, why not! Was I happy about the non-closure? Of course not. I am a closure-ho. Seriously, I love how you tried to reason with me though.

  16. Open endings drive me crazy, they are so utterly unsatisfying. Give me an ending and stick with it! I don’t care that we’re not owed a particular ending, but resolution of some kind would be appreciated. I don’t care if I hate the ending, at least I had one (I’m looking at you final Divergent book). I like that there are masses of Harry Potter fanfiction and I am annoyed at the epilogue that was unnecessary (and let’s not talk of the Cursed Child) but it was an ending and it meant there was plenty for fans to play around with. I like resolution and would hate to be forever left wondering what happened in the end

  17. I liked the Harry Potter Book 7 epilogue when younger me read it at the time. But looking back, I don’t think that it is necessary. I don’t even care now about the supplementary books/info that J.K. Rowling is spewing. So I guess younger me would really really hate an open-ending but now I think I am more open to it if it suits the story really well. I am now dying to read Sadie, you definitely made me suddenly uber curious about it.

    ASOIaF with its popularity is a different thing altogether, tho. I think GRRM is having a hard time struggling with this monster that he created so he is letting it go loose for a while until such time that he finds a way to properly tame it. I’m pretty sure he intends to finish the series. I mean, I heard he’s doing the prequels, it’s still in th ASOIaf world, so maybe it’s his way of getting into the groove of writing the ending.

  18. I love open endings! Sadie is a favorite of mine, as is The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. They often give me chills, and they make the book feel so much more real. (That being said, there are some books where I want a CERTAIN ENDING SO BADLY I MUST HAVE IT SPELLED OUT THAT IT HAPPENS. Like Rose and Charles getting together in East by Edith Pattou. But in general, I prefer open endings.)

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

  19. I have tragically missed the bandwagon for GoT, but I have had my fair share of experience with open endings. For the most part, I can respect an author’s decision to leave an opening ending. I know that you already mentioned this in #1, but I think open endings are a great way for readers to become a part of a story with their own imagined endings, fan fictions, and conspiracy theories. Yes, it can be frustrating to not have anything in the canon, but fans live for the debate about things as much as discussing what they loved in the canon.

    However, I have also read a few books where the open ending feels like a cop out. Specifically the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, where the novel ends WITH AN UNRESOLVED LOVE TRIANGLE AND AN ONGOING REBELLION. Nothing was wrapped up at all.

    I will also advocate for open endings with unreliable narrators. In this case, I am thinking about With Malice by Eileen Cook. It is like a thriller and the open ending completely changes that rest of the book, and even though I didn’t have resolution, it made me rethink everything else in the story.

  20. I don’t mind open endings for the most part. I will write the ending how I want it. There are a few books with unreliable narrators that I wished had an open ending. Thanks Sarah! ❤️❤️

  21. Well, there are open endings, and then there are open endings. Like, I’ve read The Giver and I’ve read Sadie, and it’s pretty clear to me that one ends with the MC dead and one ends with the MC living, even though neither author actually says so. And in both I felt like I got closure on the story arc. (Like you said about Mockingjay–we don’t need everything wrapped up forever, but we do need the major conflict resolved.) But if GRRM up and dies before finishing his series, that’s not an open ending, that’s an unfinished story. Which is uncool.

  22. Kel

    I can’t think of any completely open endings off the top of my head, but generally I’m with you; give me closure on the plot arc of this book or I rebel. Do not leave me on a cliffhanger. Drat, I just thought of one open-ended book that was supposed to have a sequel come out the next year…and then it turned into a trilogy…and then the second book never got written/published. I really liked that first book, but it gave 0 closure. Supposedly the author will someday give us the conclusion to that story, but it’s been almost a decade now? Yeah, still a little miffed about that. 😛

  23. I have very mixed feelings about open endings. On the one hand HOW DARE THEY DO THIS?? I must know what happened. I can’t be left in confused oblivion forever. On the other hand, it does work very well for certain books. But only certain books. Most of the time when I read a book with an open ending I get confused at the last page, like this is what you leave me with? Did the author forget to include a chapter or?? However, you do have to consider that there are some books where the definite ending sort of feels…empty? Like when at the end of a huge fantasy adventure everyone just settles down and lives a normal life, I have been known to tell people “Oh read this series, it’s really good, just don’t read the end.”.

  24. Hahaha I’m like for them and not for them! I am the kind of person who loves a final, conclusive ending to a book – ESPECIALLY a series. I want to know how it wraps up and if all my babies are okay. Sometimes though, the ending can ruin it a little in being too perfect. But then as much as I am not for opening endings, some books that have them I can see why and it works? Just not too open otherwise the reader feels like there is more to come. One book which did the open ending really well for me was Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig.

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