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Thread: Dislike of ambiguous endings in stories

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    Poster Nutbag The Exception's Avatar
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    Default Dislike of ambiguous endings in stories

    Regarding stories, I find that having an ending that makes logical sense and that ties up all the loose ends is most important. Its far more important than how the ending makes me feel (i.e. whether its happy or sad) or how predictable or unpredictable the ending is.

    Some people like rather ambiguous endings. Others like me feel a need to have no loose ends whatsoever. The only time I tolerate some loose ends is when the book is part of a series and there will be books to follow.

    A question for you all. What types of endings do you prefer in the stories you read? And how do you think it relates to your type, if it does?

    I'm guessing that maybe rational types are less tolerant of ambiguous endings than irrational types. Or maybe logical types if the ambiguity in the ending leaves some major gaps in logic.

    I think ethical types are more concerned with how the ending makes them feel. In the library I have people who ask me if I know whether or not the book they're seeking out has a happy or sad ending. I had one person who was specifically looking for love stories where the relationship ended tragically. She had been suffering through a painful break-up with her boyfriend and wanted specifically to read stuff that matched her emotional state.

    I know alot of intuitive types who get really annoyed by overly predictable plots and endings. Especially because they can see how the events are going to unfold. Although I also know sensing types who dislike predictability- one of these is an SEI, she likes to be surprised. I don't like too much predictability either although I can tolerate it. There are some books I read where I already know how its going to end. However, I more appreciate endings that have an unexpected twist just as long as it still manages to tie up all the loose ends.
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    Hot Message FDG's Avatar
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    I like definite and happy endings.
    Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit

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    Quote Originally Posted by warrior-librarian View Post
    I had one person who was specifically looking for love stories where the relationship ended tragically. She had been suffering through a painful break-up with her boyfriend and wanted specifically to read stuff that matched her emotional state.
    I like those endings.

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    Ah, you delicate person, you.

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    I like one's where they find the ball in time for the birthday party, and everyone gets to eat cake and ice cream.
    IEE-Ne

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    Quote Originally Posted by somavision View Post
    I like one's where they find the ball in time for the birthday party, and everyone gets to eat cake and ice cream.
    Cocktail Cupcakes- infusing cake with alcohol - Home Cooking - Chowhound

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    Quote Originally Posted by Absurd View Post
    Ah, you delicate person, you.
    “Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilly
    You've done yourself a huge favor developmentally by mustering the balls to do something really fucking scary... in about the most vulnerable situation possible.

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    Contrarian Traditionalist Krig the Viking's Avatar
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    Sometimes I like ambiguous endings, if they're really well done and not just a cop-out by some lazy writer trying to be "artsy". For instance, although I didn't see it myself (I'm not really a fan of the show), the series finale of "The Sopranos" sounded like an excellent ambiguous ending. Total Recall, on the other hand, is an excellent example of the whole movie being ambiguous, so resolving all that uncertainty at the end would have been cheap.

    Usually I dislike ambiguous endings at first, but then upon further refelection, I either still hate it, or I think to myself, "Y'know, that's really the only way they could have ended that story!"

    For the most part, though, I prefer to have all the plotlines wrapped up in a neat little bow. I love epilogues, where they tell you what all the characters went on to do after the story is over ("John eventually moved on, forgot about Susan, and became a Mexican wrestler named "El Nacho", where he was mistaken for a notorious drug lord and, through a series of zany adventures, brought down Mexico's most notorious drug smuggling ring."). Plot threads that are left dangling, unresolved, annoy me to no end.
    Quaero Veritas.

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    I enjoy endings that sprout from the story's internal logic, ambiguous or not. I don't mind a paradoxical ending, assuming the paradox is interesting and relates to some ambivalence in the characters or some conflict in the story.

    Asimov's Foundation trilogy is a good example of an ending that's completely tied up by the end, but which makes perfect sense based on the clues he wrote in all along.

    Stories that are tied up just for the sake of being tied up by the end are the worst IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krig the Viking View Post
    Sometimes I like ambiguous endings, if they're really well done and not just a cop-out by some lazy writer trying to be "artsy". For instance, although I didn't see it myself (I'm not really a fan of the show), the series finale of "The Sopranos" sounded like an excellent ambiguous ending. Total Recall, on the other hand, is an excellent example of the whole movie being ambiguous, so resolving all that uncertainty at the end would have been cheap.

    Usually I dislike ambiguous endings at first, but then upon further refelection, I either still hate it, or I think to myself, "Y'know, that's really the only way they could have ended that story!"

    For the most part, though, I prefer to have all the plotlines wrapped up in a neat little bow. I love epilogues, where they tell you what all the characters went on to do after the story is over ("John eventually moved on, forgot about Susan, and became a Mexican wrestler named "El Nacho", where he was mistaken for a notorious drug lord and, through a series of zany adventures, brought down Mexico's most notorious drug smuggling ring."). Plot threads that are left dangling, unresolved, annoy me to no end.
    It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.

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    I dislike predictability first and foremost, or rather what is easily predictable. If a storyline is far from obvious, even when I guessed at where it's all going I might get some satisfaction from it, though I won't probably consider the plot too interesting. Overall plot is the most important part of the book for me - I like threads interleaving and mixing better than clearly divided, yet I'll be annoyed with a 'forced' surprise - like an author wanting to be unpredictable and throwing a pink invisible unicorn in the middle of the city's square during the final scene so that there's something random/surprising. Fine, it makes it unpredictable, but it doesn't make sense and is useless for the story. Now if what's completely possible in the realm of the story is unpredictably twisted - or better yet, warped - it's fascinating.

    I don't really have a preference over happy/tragic endings, whatever works for the story.

    Ambiguous endings - and other parts of the story - are preferred but I won't deny sometimes badly done loose end annoys me. This is especially true if it's a single yet important thread is cut off while others are finished, leaving little place for it. I really don't like epilogues summarizing the rest of some character's life.

    Those are also some of the many reasons why I'd take a book over a movie. That's not to say movies can't have a good plot and ending - can be great - but they often leave less for imagination, and especially feel limiting when based on a book.

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    Contrarian Traditionalist Krig the Viking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jxrtes View Post
    I enjoy endings that sprout from the story's internal logic, ambiguous or not.
    Yes, exactly, that's what I was trying to get at. The ending has to be the natural culmination of the story's internal structure. That's why deus ex machina is such a cop-out -- the ending is just kind of tacked on, with no relation to the rest of the story.

    A perfect example is the movie "I Am Legend", with Will Smith. As much as I like happy endings, I far preferred the director's original ending, instead of the new "happy" ending they tacked on after test audiences complained. The original ending took all of the little hints and clues and loose plot threads throughout the movie, and tied them up in a satisfying revelation: "Here's what was really going on the whole time". The new ending just ignored all that, let the loose ends dangle, and made something that could have been really cool into something mediocre.
    Quaero Veritas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krig the Viking View Post
    Yes, exactly, that's what I was trying to get at. The ending has to be the natural culmination of the story's internal structure. That's why deus ex machina is such a cop-out -- the ending is just kind of tacked on, with no relation to the rest of the story.
    <!-- Spoilers for ending of Battlestar Galactica





















    [[ Read at own risk!!! ]]





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    That's the main reason I lost what little respect I still had for Battlestar Galactica. The ending was literally a deux ex machina. "God," a character with virtually no development, was literally orchestrating events all along.
    It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.

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    About original endings substituted with happy endings - The Butterfly Effect seems a good example, I think. Not so much in tying loose threads than putting entire story in a different light, rather than just staying with one possibility.

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    If a story doesn't reach a conclusion, then it's an unfinished work, not an ambiguous ending.

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    I can deal with ambiguous endings if it is part of a series... if they're just angling for a series and there isn't actually one in the works, it pisses me off because I feel manipulated (this goes for movies as well). Plus, I feel like a good writer will put closure on individual books in any series anyway while still keeping a general thread open and alive for the next book.

    One thing I've noticed authors doing lately is waiting til the last chapter, and then writing an ending that really should be the first chapter of the next book. It's like they're trying to be ambiguous but end up looking like they need new editors.
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    I like ambiguous endings, I like depressing endings, I like the type where people would say "that doesn't belong in a movie" or something, where it cuts off suddenly without a overt conclusion. It seems overly prescriptive to just fit confusing things into something that makes sense when they really don't. The guy at Blockbuster was complaining about how he wished that couple would've gotten together in Up In The Air. But it was like no, that was realistic. Leave it be. Like not that all movie endings have to be all jaded or anything. But for once don't just zoom out on Hawaii or the bottom of a jail cell please.

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    for those who like ambiguous endings, try reading some Philip K Dick. Pretty much any of his novels or short stories will do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krig the Viking View Post
    For the most part, though, I prefer to have all the plotlines wrapped up in a neat little bow. I love epilogues, where they tell you what all the characters went on to do after the story is over ("John eventually moved on, forgot about Susan, and became a Mexican wrestler named "El Nacho", where he was mistaken for a notorious drug lord and, through a series of zany adventures, brought down Mexico's most notorious drug smuggling ring."). Plot threads that are left dangling, unresolved, annoy me to no end.
    Ah I hate epilogues! :-p I prefer ending with death and destruction for all rather than being led through a person's life and out the other side. I recently saw this terrible movie which seemed to be ending - the love affair was over, all was lost etc - then what do you know - there they are, old and wrinkled and living their separate lives - all is still lost etc, but here's a few details re what they got up to afterwards. I really don't need to know that stuff. :-p
    Quote Originally Posted by jxrtes View Post
    I enjoy endings that sprout from the story's internal logic, ambiguous or not.
    +1
    "Language is the Rubicon that divides man from beast."

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