on the value of the conclusion…

March 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm (meta, rant)

so i’ve got two stories on here right now that i consider more or less complete. “sense of self” and “self-control.” “sense of self” has a definite conclusion. a paragraph that wraps everything up. “self-control” didn’t, originally, but the version on here now does. the final cut of that story, the one that was actually submitted to quercus, has nothing of the sort.

i’ve been speculating on the value of conclusions the last few days, primarily due to this. it’s a bit of an odd thing to be involved simultaneously in english classes which require formal essays and also creative writing. formal essays demand conclusions. you spell out your objective in a thesis statement in your introductory paragraph, then you lay out your points in a nice, neat, well organized, logical manner, then you reiterate everything and hammer it home even harder in the conclusion. you want to make sure everyone gets the point.

i think this tendency has bled over in my habits with creative writing as well. although my stories might not have a “point” as such when i begin, they often acquire one as i go. while i might not be aesop and trying to include some kind of blatant, uplifting, edifying moral with every thing i write, for some reason when i wrote “sense of self” and when i revised “self-control” i felt like i should make sure everyone got the “point” of the story. i think “sense of self” is probably okay as is, and to a certain extent i like the conclusion i wrote for “self-control” but i am also starting to think that putting a conclusion like that on a piece of fiction is kind of silly. after all, people are probably just as likely (if not more likely) to read fiction for simple amusement and entertainment than for intellectual exploration or to ponder moral conundrums. amusement is certainly the reason for which i write the stuff (that is, i write it because i find the process of doing so amusing. i don’t care so much what anyone else gets from it afterward).

so does a short piece of fiction (or even a long piece, i guess) need or benefit from some kind of conclusion? does an author need to spell out the point, the moral, the lesson, etc. to all the stupid, mindless readers or should he or she just let them figure it out on their own, let them take from it what they will?

at first i was upset that they wanted to cut back “self-control” after asking for more. this was partially because, well, they’d already asked for more and i’d given it to them. but it was also partially because i’d kind of liked the conclusion i’d added. i still do. but on further thought i’m not so sure that it actually adds anything or benefits the piece. maybe it’s just better to show some stuff, tell the readers, “hey, this happened,” and then let them decide what they want it to mean.

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