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?