Once more, Erin has returned to make her comments on writing, editing, and society in general. This time, I want to talk about the promises we make while writing. Liam of This Page Intentionally Left Blank commented on this in his posts Squids, on how if you do not keep the unspoken promises you make to a reader the reader will be mad at you, Chapter Promises, in which he states that every statement that ends a chapter is a promise (that the story will continue to follow along the line it takes at the end of the chapter), and Promises, about breaking faith with a reader. I am commenting on a similar phenomenon: unresolved promises. This is partly to address the phenomenon of unfinished, partially-posted fanfics that are then abandoned, temporarily or (gasp!) occasionally permanently (sadly, I’m partially guilty of this–I still haven’t worked on Battlefield of the Soul any time recently!), and partly to address the disturbingly common problem of loose ends in popular fiction.
It could only happen on the internet. A story is being posted serially. Maybe it’s not even fanfiction (though this occurrence is the bane of the fanfic realm.) It gets abandoned, or left on a permanent hiatus. This really, really annoys me when something like this happens, and even more so when it’s an original story that’s been left hanging. I can understand why someone would need to stop writing fanfiction for a time (maybe even permanently,) but I can’t get why someone would start posting an original story, poetry series, whatever, and then suddenly stop writing it.
I’m sorry, people, but this is majorly taboo. If you post something that’s a promise that you will continue to post it until it’s completed. (My bad on Battlefield of the Soul, people.) It’s not a spoken promise, it’s an implied one, but that doesn’t make it any less binding. So… FINISH WHAT YOU’VE BEGUN! If you’re just going to abandon it, why in the name of purple pickups did you start to post it?! People are just going to hate you for stopping.
And now, for the other problem.
Mystery promises resolution. To give any less would be to short-change one’s readers, alienating them in the process. Too often, authors leave ends untied and lying around. Untidy, and it bothers me.
For instance, there’s the matter of Clarisse in Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. We never learn what really happen to her. The author stated in the commentary on the play and movie that he feels he should have specified in the book that she joined the refugees in the hills, as it was specified in the stage production.
And then there’s a similar instance in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis noted that he had received many letters from his readers, wanting to know what happened to the party-goers whom the White Witch turned to stone. He wrote,
I assumed that my readers would think that Aslan changed them back, as he did with all the other stone animals. I guess I should have written it into the story.
Save yourself from regrets, my fellow writers, and check your writing for loose ends. Your audience will thank you in the long term, no matter how annoying this may be in the short.
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!