“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles
Sometimes when I write I think too much. I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about, and I write as if I’ve got something to prove to someone. That’s a mistake. Over thinking, trying to outsmart the reader only to outsmart yourself.
When I wrote Jazz I wanted for the ending to the story to deliver a certain message. Throughout the novel there’s some talk about happy endings, about what we want to get from life, and stuff like that. Of course, those characters are mistaken in their belief that happiness is a destination, but nevertheless… they want and try to reach for something, and they’re not even sure what that something is.
Actually, I find that we spend an awful lot of time living in a world of vague concepts. My characters often live in such a world, trying to make sense of the world by applying a series of strange principles. And they abide to those principles no matter what.
Now back to the ending. Half-way through the novel I felt my main character didn’t deserve a happy ending. As much as he wanted it, as much as he was willing to fight for it, I just felt that it wouldn’t be just. After all, life is constantly teaching us that we don’t always get what we want.
So I wrote the ending I wanted, an ending that was supposed to make the reader realize something I just couldn’t really comprehend myself. Some sort of karma, I suppose.
The truth is that I just didn’t know what a happy ending meant for that particular story. I just didn’t know what a reader would feel as being a happy ending. Or a sad one. I just didn’t know who they should be rooting for, or even if they’d root for anyone at all.
So I did the next best thing. Gave the story a new ending, an ambiguous one. And I gave the reader the choice.
It’s my favorite question to ask those who tell me they’ve read my novel: what did you think of the ending? Was it a happy one or not? Did the characters deserve for their story to end the way it did?
It’s quite a lot of power for a reader to have, and I’m well aware that some didn’t enjoy it. Because my ending does not give them an answer, it just raises a question.
Personally, I’m not sure if my ending is a happy one or not. And it doesn’t even matter what I wanted to say. All that matters is what you think I said.
Or something like that.
What I’m really trying to say is that we don’t always get the ending we want. In life and literature, we don’t always get what we want, and most times instead of finding the answers we’re looking for we find more questions.
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