No Loose Ends: Wrapping Things Up

Happiness to me includes tidy spaces, tidy schedules, and even a tidy to-do list. (I’m sure you can imagine how rarely these things happen independently, much less together!) Nice, neat little packages of life, wrapped up cleanly, make me happy.

I love gift wrapping, too. For similar reasons, I enjoy the beautification of the carefully chosen gifts (although I’m not a fan of those oddly shaped ones). Determining a symmetry for the placement of the paper, placing odd numbers of bows on the neatly wrapped boxes, and organizing the wrapped gifts under the tree is something I look forward to doing.  My gift wrap is themed by destination: packages going to my in-laws might be all snow-people, packages going to my mother’s house might have Santas, and the friend gifts have reindeer. It helps me organize, visually, and I love how the gifts all look under the tree. That tidiness is soothing, relaxing, and calming; unless, of course, I buy that cheap paper that won’t cut evenly!

(NOTE: At this point, I sound incredibly organized. This is more like a dream sequence of how it should look. In reality, there’s lost scissors, not enough tape, ribbon left across the room…let’s just say the reality is not quite the same as the dream. But I do enjoy the process, and it’s mostly tidy!)

My reading preferences lean toward the tidy, too. Not from a plot perspective, but in a “wrap up all the loose ends neatly by the end” kind of way. Perhaps this is why I really, really, really don’t like reading literary fiction. Those stories so often don’t really end, so much as they just stop (clarification: I realize all lit-fic stories don’t lack a tidy ending, it just seems like they tend to do so, while mysteries tend to have cleaner endings, but of course nothing is absolute in fiction). Or they don’t stop; instead, there’s just unwrapping, and unwrapping, and unwrapping.

Those uncertain endings leave me with an uncomfortable, unfinished feeling, one that is the exact opposite of soothed, relaxed, and calm! I have no interest in deciding for myself how the story ends; I want the writer to finish her story, and let me enjoy the tidiness of it. I want to exist in her world for as long as the story lasts, unwrap the gift that is a clear story line, and then move on. With a series, I expect the main threads to be wrapped up, and just enough left undone to leave me interested in the next book, without leaving me annoyed.

Perhaps because the world is a vastly untidy place, I look to fiction for relief, for the enjoyment of something that is tidy.  The story that takes me on a journey, one that is unpredictable for its duration, but that offers the promise of a clear ending, is the one I truly enjoy. Choices are made, paths are followed, and when I read the last page, I know who committed the crime and how–and so does the protagonist. Certainly, there is much that doesn’t have to be wrapped up, but the core story has a beginning, middle, and end. And I love it!

How about you? Do you crave the tidiness of a neat ending, or enjoy the messiness of the not-quite-wrapped-up story?

Happy Holidays!

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

6 thoughts on “No Loose Ends: Wrapping Things Up”

  1. Ah, lost scissors, not enough tape. Been there, done that.

    I’m okay with a certain type of uncertainty. Wide, open-ended, “what the heck happened here?” endings? No, thanks. Which is why, like you, a lot of lit fic leaves me cold.

    But as long as the author resolves the main question and leaves me with enough information that I can reason out what happened…that I’m okay with.

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  2. Happy holidays, Pamela! What a great post to kick off December 🙂 I finished watching the Gilmore Girl revival this past weekend and–without spoiling anything–I’ll just say the ending made me think about this… I expected all sorts of resolutions, but the ending left me wondering if everything really was wrapped up (I think not). I can appreciate open endings, but not when I’ve been led to believe there will be firm resolutions.

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  3. I’m with you, Pamela. I too will coordinate wrapping, etc. and then not be able to find the tape! Or discover that all the unused bows I had carefully saved from the prior year were somehow put in that “safe” spot that never reappears. And then again, occasionally, I put cayenne in the Christmas cookies thinking I’ve grabbed the cinnamon while I was engrossed in a phone call. OOPS.

    As for books, I can recall reading one author’s first book, I loved it. The writing was outstanding, the plot wonderful and dense, then I got to the ending. There wasn’t one. This was a mystery. Book hit the wall. What do you mean the sleuth hopes to solve the mystery in the future? Not with my help she won’t. I understand that the writer has since mended her ways, but I don’t trust her! Wrap it up and feed it to me, please. I want to know. And I want to know if I followed all the clues and resolved all the red herrings the writer presented to the same end as the writer.

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  4. I am impressed by your gift wrapping skills! As for endings… this is the Next Big Thing I want to study, because they’re so tough. In one mystery my book club read recently, there was resolution in the end, although the villain did not get justice. It was interesting that nobody in the club, all voracious mystery fans, minded this because the book was so well done, overall.

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  5. Lovely comments (and sorry about the misfire on posting this morning).

    Mary, I like what you said–resolution of the main question. That’s a great way to look at it!
    Kate, I’m so torn on the revival! Hubby and I were devoted fans of the series.
    Kait, YES! There’s a lack of trust for sure when an author doesn’t meet my expectations; it’s hard to buy in for the next book.
    Sue, if the story is well done, I can live with a lack of justice, too. But I want confirmation of who dunnit!

    Thanks again, ladies!

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  6. One of my favorite Joseph Finder books is PARANOIA. You might not be terribly satisfied with the ending when your first read it (I was looking to be spoon-fed), but it now ranks as one of my all-time alternative ending books.

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