Leaving Questions Unanswered versus Wrapping up the Story with a Bow


If you weren’t aware, I love writing letters. I love coming home and seeing NOT A BILL and NOT JUNK in my mailbox. I have accrued a selection of fine penpals who are all far more intelligent than I am and very perceptive.

One said penpal recently wrote:

Recently finished [Redacted]. There were a couple plot twists I did not foresee. She stayed true to the time period and still left questions unanswered. So it stays with me.

*taps pen to lips* Hmmmm.

One of the things that I have had the hardest time learning while writing is knowing what information needs to be told and what information or world-building or resolutions can be withheld from the reader and still offer a full and satisfying story. Leaving questions unanswered is a hard thing to do as a writer, when you have the answer–or, at least, one of the answers.

Then I got another poke for the same topic from Pinterest:

“Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.” – Stephen King

I’m still searching for this balance. Too much versus too little.


Writing is as much about the writer as it is about the reader. Making a black-and-white world and delivering a story in a neat package–sure, it can be fun for the writer. As writers, we are obsessed with distilling our stories. We work hard to ensure that everything revealed is used again, all threads lead to an inevitable end, even with twists and turns in a the road to wrench our characters nearly off the rails. Everything is solved and wrapped up. Everything leads to the success of the story.

But how is that fun for the reader? Accomodating the reader, giving the reader space to question, dream, ask, grow, dwell–giving the reader space to read is just as important, if not more important.

Perhaps this is why I always failed at literary theory and analytical reading in school. I always wanted to find the right answer, not depend on myself for introspection and applying speculation. I didn’t read with the mind of a reader–I read with the mind of a writer.

Can we possibly live with both? Simultaneously? Or do we have to suspend one to enact the other?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *