Closure: Does Everything Have To Be Known?

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Closure After A Concluding Plot–Does Everything Have To Be Known?

As I was thinking about mystery stories lately, especially how it is important to answer all the questions and secrets that come up during the story, I wondered if that was the case for stories in general. Does everything have to be known? Is closure needed at the end of a story? Is that necessary to have a complete story or even a good one?

One thing that I have been concerned with in writing stories was making sure there was complete closure—that there was resolution to all the problems that arose throughout the story. But I pondered if it would make for a more interesting story if some mysteries were left behind. Maybe the primary problem which makes up the plot would be resolved—would have closure, but smaller problems would not necessary be resolved.

For example, in one story I tried to do that—I tried to make everything known. But what if I only resolved the main problem, the plot? What if I left little problems behind, question marks to their resolution? These little unresolved problems could open up opportunities for a sequel or continuation later on. With these problems being unresolved, they could grow and surface, becoming another major problem—another plot in the future.

In the story, there was a significant division between two groups of people. The main character did not understand fully why and sought to find the answer. The answer was found and resolution was made. It appears from there that everyone lived happily ever after. But considering what I said before, if I wanted to add more realism, I could go back to address concerns from individuals who still felt animosity from the other side. Maybe they have different concerns that are not of the greater good.

From books I have read lately, most had closure—resolution from the plot. I really could not find a place where some unaddressed concerns could show up again and disturb the peace that has been found. However, there are stories out there that conclude in ways where everything is not fully resolved, though most have a sequel or two anticipated. But I am not talking about those stories that are obvious, that are likely to have sequels. I am talking about stories that were intended to have a complete and resolved plot, and was not intended to have another plot arise. A good example is JRR Tolkien’s, The Hobbit. Originally, The Hobbit was written as one story with no continuation, but later after its success, the author was encouraged by his publisher to make a sequel, which was The Lord Of The Rings.

In actuality, any story can have a continuation, even if the original story ended with everything resolved. An angry character, even if an extra in the original story, could always come up and start things, unraveling what was resolved and made perfect. As I write this, I think I will revisit my stories and think about this.

6 thoughts on “Closure: Does Everything Have To Be Known?

  1. In my humble opinion, no, you don’t always have to have closure. Or maybe it depends on the genre. But I personally like when I read and look for one answer, and while my brain is busy working to find THAT answer, other problems slip by me and when I get to the end, I realize, “Ohhh, very cool. The author fooled me good!” That said, I do not like it when a very intricate part of the story is left open-ended, USUALLY. There are exceptions that leave it intriguing even then, though. I just think sometimes it’e better to leave some things unsolved like in real life, and not always tie everything up with a pretty bow. 🙂

    1. Thank you Rachel for your insight! I have struggled with stories I have written on whether to resolve all that there is to resolve or leave some things a mystery. Looking back at stories (and movies) I have read, the ones that became my favorites didn’t necessarily solve all the issues that occurred in them. However the main problem was solved. I guess when it comes to deciding if everything should be resolved or known in a story, it can depend on one’s instinct, basically, what should be resolved and what is not important or best left unknown.

  2. Not everything in life is bundled up at sorted out, so no, I don’t think everything needs to be resolved. It’s a good point and definitely something to think on. Great post 🙂

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