The Art Of Ambiguity

Which way does your writing go?

I’ve said it before, Don’t be afraid to have an ambiguous ending. Allow the reader to imagine more; get all up in their kitchen and paint a picture in their headspace – and then own it (their head, that is); and, allow the reader to ask, what the fuck just happened.

I know what you’re thinking, “Shit, Chris, I’d prefer to understand just what the hell’s happening when I get to the ending of a story. Tidy that shit up nicely so I can just kick back knowing fully what took place. I don’t want to think. Thinking, well, it sucks.”

I get it, few things are more interesting to people than not fully understanding something. It’s like goddamn algebra. It’s like they’ve been cheated out of all that precious invested time in understanding characters, the plot, a few twists, and then the ambiguous whammy kinda feels like a sledge hammer upside the skullbox. No one likes a sledge upside the head. Probably not, anyway.

But, an ambiguous ending or character can lead to other things. It offers the reader a chance to wonder. To ponder the intrigue. To suggest to themselves a different scenario of final events. Or, to elevate their senses on the finality of said events. Is it really over? Could it have ended that way? Did she really die? Can’t be. Say it ain’t so. Emotion overload. It also gives the writer an out. Do we write another story or book as a follow up?

The ambiguous ending should leave the reader wanting more, not cheated. It should spark their curiosity for more. That’s the entire idea. As the writer, it’s imperative we don’t give definite answers in an ambiguous ending. Seems a little obvious, but as people, we too like things wrapped in a cute little bow. This bow must go fuck itself. The bow must die. The bow is not complex, ambiguity is complex. Bye-bye bow.

A way to work on ambiguity in your writing is to practice flash fiction. Super duper segue here: come back for my next blog post at this spot for flash fiction must haves. In other words, the do me’s and don’ts of flashing.

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