Guest Post: The Ambiguous Ending

Guest post by Natalie Damschroder

I have never really been a fan of the ambiguous ending. You know the kind, where the author or, more commonly, filmmaker leaves the truth up to the audience. I saw a movie this weekend (won’t name it because I don’t want to spoil it) that I knew was the kind to have such an ending, but even knowing that, I held my breath through the climax, so eager to see the happy ending we’d been fighting for right along with the characters. And then we got it. And then…they made us question. Did we? Did he?

I admit, I screamed. (Almost silently, as it was well after midnight. Hurt my throat!) I understood what the filmmaker was doing, and it fit the themes of the movie. But he did his job too well. The best movies are marriages of spectacle and character, conflict and special effects. This one made us care so much about the hero that it really damaged my pleasure when they called into question everything we’d just seen.

In popular fiction — romance, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller — the ending is rarely ambiguous. The couple is together, the bad guy caught or dead, the world recovering from whatever battles have been fought. But once in a while, the author leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens next. As a reader, I don’t like that. Not because I’m incapable of making that determination, but because it makes things feel unfinished. I like to know. The characters are only real because of the author, so I want to know what the author knows!

I’m struggling with a manuscript right now that, in first draft, ended a bit ambiguously. It’s a happy ending, but there’s one factor that isn’t shown on the page, the results aren’t told. It feels right to end it that way, but I don’t like it!

So what do you think? Movies, books, TV show cliffhangers that leave unanswered questions…where do you stand? Hate them, love them, or somewhere in between?

Even if you don’t want to voice an opinion, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Naked, a Harlequin Spice by Megan Hart.

Fight or Flight

Natalie J. Damschroder’s latest romantic adventure, Fight or Flight, is available now from Carina Press, via Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and wherever e-books are sold. It’s also available in audiobook! Her next book in this genre, Behind the Scenes, will be out late this year.

You can learn more about Natalie and her books at her website, eHarlequin, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. She blogs with three other opinionated writers at The Gabwagon, and with four other obsessed passionate Supernatural fans at Supernatural Sisters.