Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Stories and Real Life

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.


Tanza Erlambang said...

Nice thought...I love it....

However, some people told me that "the best story" is confuse at the end....
Actually, I don't buy this kind of opinion.

Have a wonderful day.

Evelyn said...

Interesting. I hadn't thought of the differences between life and stories in those ways.

Sue said...

I agree. The phrase "truth is stranger than fiction" fits here. Real life doesn't necessarily make sense which is one of the reasons we escape to story.

Barbara Etlin said...

I sometimes enjoy open-ended movies and books. After I saw "After Sunset" with my husband and two friends, we had a lively debate about what happened after the abrupt ending. But the two people who liked closed endings didn't like the movie.

But sometimes it's just frustrating, as if the author or screenwriter were too lazy to decide the characters' fates.

Mostly, I agree with you; fiction usually requires the loose ends tied up.

janlcoates said...

I'm always interested in reading how your mind works:)

MirkaK said...

I appreciate both kinds of endings: those that wrap things up nicely, leaving us feeling good, with a sense of completion, as well as those that don't tell us what happens because, after all, we don't know the future, whether for ourselves or for fictional characters.