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Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.
September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.
“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!
Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:
Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.
Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.
In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.
Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.
Friday, September 17, 2010
What Just Happened?
I had half a blog post written about Author Intrusion (see next week) when an intriguing comment on Facebook gave me pause. Do readers want story endings all wrapped up, or do they like endings to be left hanging and/or open to interpretation?
I know what I like. I like endings that are open, that make the reader sit up and say, “What just happened?” But I know that just as many readers get to an ending like that and want to throw the book against the wall.
I have a vested interest in this question. A few months ago, I wrote a short story that ended in a way that left much of the story up for interpretation. In it, a woman who just ended a romantic relationship makes a discovery that is disturbing and frightening. She’s not sure if she, in particular, was meant to find this thing; if it was meant for someone else; if it was a totally random occurrence. She does what she thinks is right—reports it to the police—but their reaction is strange. To make it extra fun, I wrote her as someone a bit unstable, so maybe she’s not the most reliable narrator.
I ended the story with a surprise, a twist that—if successful—makes the reader realize that clues to the surprise were woven into the story all along. That’s what I tried to do, anyway.
I submitted it to my critique group. Sometimes we tell one another what we are trying to accomplish, or if we have any particular concerns about a story. I did none of that. I didn’t want to alert them that there might be a quirk. To my surprise, each of my critique partners had a completely different interpretation of what they’d read. This worried me. I was trying to experiment, maybe have some fun with the reader’s head, but I never expected three different reactions.
But my critique group members are all short story writers, not mystery writers, and I wondered about that, too. Maybe mystery readers would read the story a different way. Maybe mystery readers would be more attuned to subtle hints and possibilities.
So I sent it to two mystery writer friends. The first told me what she thought the ending meant, but she was not sure. She said, “I feel like this story is a puzzle.”
The second mystery writer had an entirely different idea about the ending. She said, “I feel like you’re making me work very hard to figure out this story, and I couldn’t—but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m 95% sure I know what happened, but the 5% won’t leave me in peace.”
Heh. I liked that—I think. Is puzzling readers a good thing? I like the idea of making a reader work, but I don’t want to be a tease. I was intrigued with all of these interpretations, so I went to one final test subject—a friend who is a reader but does not write. She is my walking partner, and she has spent many miles listening to me bounce ideas and rattle away. She offers opinions that are decidedly different from those offered by other writers.
Other writers say, “How could you make that work?” “Is that true to character?” “Is that too close to coincidence?” “Is that marketable?”
Not my walking friend. She says things like, “Why would a person do that?” or “No way. Who is that dumb?” or “That sounds like something you stole from the news.” She’s my street smart reader. She expects stories to make sense, and she doesn’t need to know how they got that way. She just wants them to be that way.
I gave her the story. Two days later, when we met for our walk, her review began with, “I hate that story! Why did you make me read that story! I’ve been thinking about it for two days!”
When I stopped laughing, I asked her what she thought happened at the end. She told me, with great confidence, that blank blank blank blank blank.
She was right. That’s what happened in my mind, too, although I wasn’t sure myself until that moment. But what she said happened was completely different from what the other five people who read it said happened.
So now I’ve had six people read this story. No one agrees on the ending and what it means. Does that mean the story works because it stays in the reader's head? Or that it’s such a mess, it’s beyond deciphering?
I like the story; I like this type of story. But I wonder if I am alone in that. Is it frustrating to get through all those pages, only to be left to decide what happens next on your own? Does this intrigue you, or make you want to throw something against a wall?