I have been thinking a lot about story endings lately… specifically the structure of human stories. What makes for a good and satisfying end to a story? To a movie? To a song? Does a story need to have an ending in order for us to be satisfied? Would you read a story if you knew you may not have all your questions about the character or situation answered by the end?
I know that when I watched My Best Friend’s Wedding as a high school student, I was most put out that “The movie ENDED WRONG.” That is to say that my favourite female character did not end up with the predicted male character. The fact that the male character ended up with the female character who he shared a mutually loving relationship with was irrelevant to 14-year-old Josie.
Yet, no one objects to the Titanic movie ending wrong…
The Titanic ended as it did in real life(ish) – obviously some creative licence was used to tell the passionate love story of Rose and Jack – but although the writers could have creatively subverted the disaster and allowed the 1500 people on board to live, in the end, the ship sank. We didn’t have to wonder what happened next. The story lines were wrapped up. Like when Free Willy swims off into the ocean, and Aladdin marries Princess Jasmine and also frees Genie. These stories ended “right”; we were satisfied.
My question is, how do our expectations born of our movie experiences this translate to real life?
…and No. I do not want to hear, “Josie it isn’t supposed to translate to real life! It is fantasy.”
Sorry, no. I am not accepting that as a response.
Firstly, I know what creative writing is y’all. I am familiar with the concepts of books and stories…
Secondly, I reject this objection because media and the Arts – music, movies, books, plays, and television – do now, and have always been, an influencing factor on our lives. They reflect and reinforce social and cultural norms, and/or bring new, even radical ideals and perspectives to us. The Arts can normalize or demonise individuals, groups and different lifestyles – they can be used as a means through which a political agenda is shared and achieved. Media and the Arts can – and have – contributed to starting and ending wars.
I wonder then, if we are conditioned to expect a nicely packaged conclusive ending to every story we read, see or hear – will we be dissatisfied with any story we encounter which does not conclude satisfactorily? Even if it is our own story? If so, what happens when a story does not ‘feel’ over? What if we do not find the ending conclusive…if we are left wondering? Is it still a story? Do we still tell it? Do we encourage others to tell us their inconclusive stories?
Let me know what you think…. Do you have expectations on how things should end in a movie … or in life? How do you feel when thing’s do not go that way?