You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

So here’s something that annoys me. Actually, I find it beyond frustrating.

I absolutely hate it when an author is asked a question about what happens his characters after the end of the book and he says something to the effect of “I’d like to think that they . . .”

Let’s step back from that for a minute and think about it. They are his characters; it is his story. The characters are figments of his imagination, and if he wants them to do something, then guess what? They have to do it. That’s the cool part about being an author: you are the absolute god over the world you create. Pretty spiffy.

The characters are not real, they don’t decide things, the author does. Your book might have been good, but it wasn’t so good that people actually began believing that your characters literally came to life.

Now maybe the author just doesn’t want to ruin it for the readers, wants to give them the option of finishing the story in their own minds. It’s a cop out, but I’ll accept it. Maybe he doesn’t want to risk making people dislike the story by adding more to it. That has happened to some (read: George Lucas).

Maybe the author really hasn’t thought it through. Maybe he really doesn’t know what happens to the characters because his imagination took off on holiday after the last page of the book was written. Doubtful, but let’s go with it. Just say “I don’t know” or the trusty “I prefer to let the readers decide for themselves.” He doesn’t really mean that, but he saves face by not admitting that he’s dropped the ball terribly.

I find it hard to believe that any author who leaves a story open ended has not thought through what happens after the last paragraph in the text. That’s the whole draw for an open ending. The author gets to walk around knowing what happens next, and none of the rest of us will ever know. The author gets to keep on being god. We may hate him for it, but at least we can still respect him. Saying “I’d like to think . . .” is the author’s way of saying, “I really know, but I’m not telling you, not really.” It’s a tease and a cheap ploy for attention.

So what is the proper response for an author who is asked what happens next? Two options: 1) Tell the people what happens next, or 2) smile smugly and say “don’t you wish you knew?”

That would be okay. I think we could all live with that.

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2 responses to “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

  1. I agree. A write ought to own his characters enough to know what they are up to after the final page.

    I’ve written a screenplay, and I can tell you that my characters have all been very busy since the end of the script.

  2. oops… “A writer ought”…

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