A writer friend lamented that she gets feedback from readers who complain that her stories are open ended. “Isn’t that what real life is?” she said.
Yes, sort of, maybe. But there are real differences between real life stories and stories about life, real or otherwise.
Stories have a beginning and an end. As we live, we experience many beginnings but few solid resolutions.
Stories may have an unreliable narrator. Think of the Books Shutter Island and Gone, Girl, (both made into good movies) or in kidlit— When You Reach Me. In real life we are all somewhat unreliable narrators, only we rarely get to figure this out like omniscient readers do.
Stories make sense. If they don’t, they fail. In real life, we leave that overall sense to the originator of all things. Hard as some try, making sense of everything all the time makes Johnny or Sally insufferable.
In stories, every detail must count. In real life, while the details that turn out to count are more memorable, they are also few.
We need stories to make sense and give meaning to experiences. This is why stories are organizers of experience.
Okay, back to organizing.