Thursday, August 11, 2011

On being decisive (in fiction)

So I'm not the world's most decisive person. (Maybe I shouldn't have said that.)

I recently received some comments from an editor on a short story, and I realized its biggest problem was my refusal to commit to...a story. I myself like stories with ambiguous endings, the did-it-really-happen or what-exactly-happened endings. Which is not to say I like endings the writer *messed up.* These things have to be done very carefully, so that the implications can be taken in two (or more) ways--but the reader has to be able to figure out what those ways are in the first place.

The mistake I made in this story was trying to keep all options open, when what I needed to do was commit myself, through my narrator, to one path. In reality, other options can and will remain open, but that openness is accomplished through the limitations of the characters, and through language. In other words, literature is a bit loose because language and characters are a bit loose. In fact literature creates a productive ambiguity if you're doing it right. But if you force ambiguity by refusing to commit, you create confusion, not art.

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